CSPC: Michael Jackson Popularity Analysis

Michael Jackson project

Digital Singles Sales – Part 2

As a reminder, the weighting is done with a 10 to 1,5 ratio between albums and digital singles.

Off The Wall (1979) – 1,094,000 equivalent albums

Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough – 3,230,000
Rock With You – 1,970,000
Off The Wall – 810,000
She’s Out Of My Life – 530,000
Working Day and Night – 300,000
Remaining tracks – 450,000

Thriller (1982) – 4,206,000 equivalent albums

The Girl Is Mine – 530,000
Billie Jean – 6,620,000
Beat It – 5,490,000
Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ – 2,340,000
Human Nature – 1,230,000
P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) – 2,840,000
Thriller – 8,440,000
The Lady in My Life – 300,000
Remaining tracks – 250,000

Bad (1987) – 2,402,000 equivalent albums

I Just Can’t Stop Loving You – 530,000
Bad – 2,110,000
The Way You Make Me Feel – 2,910,000
Man In The Mirror – 4,010,000
Dirty Diana– 1,530,000
Another Part of Me – 230,000
Smooth Criminal – 3,540,000
Leave Me Alone – 430,000
Liberian Girl – 390,000
Remaining tracks – 330,000

The two US #1 hits from Off The Wall are over 5 million downloads and ringtones combined, a very solid showing for songs from a 1979 album. Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough for example does much better than anything released by Madonna prior to the digital era. It almost pales in comparison to what comes next for Michael Jackson though.

Thriller at 8,44 million, Billie Jean at 6,62 million and Beat It at 5,49 million are absolute monsters. The whole Thriller track list is out of this world. To use again our point of reference, Madonna, 5 out of the 9 songs from the album have more downloads than her biggest catalog hit Like A Prayer.

In total, songs from this LP register the immense number of 28 million downloads,  as much as big smash albums from the 00s. It largely breaks the record of Appetite For Destruction from the Guns N’ Roses, which at 19,7 million was the most successful pre-2000 album in downloads that we studied so far. It had itself a sizable lead over its runner up, Rumours by Fleetwood Mac at 15 million.

Rumours doesn’t drop from #2 to #3 on this specific ranking, though. In fact, it drops directly to #4 due to downloads of songs from Bad. Man In The Mirror leads the pack at 4 million, Smooth Criminal is over 3,5 million, The Way You Make Me Feel is ever closer to 3 million and Bad is over 2 million. Tracks from the album combine for over 16 million.

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Thomas Christiansen

“Billie Jean” recently topped 1 Billion plays on Spotify!!!

993,017,697 + 3,798,470 + 2,500,913 + 1,274,583 + 47,353 = 1,000,639,016

A huge achievement from this 39 year old Pop classic!

Lim Hyunjin

A few days ago, Billie Jean was predicted to be played 1 billion on spotify.

Billie Jean is a very important song in the history of popular music.

I listen to Billie Jean every day.

Last edited 22 days ago by Lim Hyunjin

How much did We Are The World sell? It was hugely successful and The New York Times reported it as the best-selling single of the 80s.

Christopher Porter

Orphan is not a Michael Jackson album


Orphan means songs that are not included in his studio albums.


Hi, do we know how much “Thriller 25” sold since 2009 please?

Thomas Christiansen

“Beat It” is the 2nd track from “Thriller” to pass 500M streams on Spotify! It’s the 6th pre-2000 album to achieve this. Here are the top 5 albums based on their 2nd biggest track, all 5 are Hard Rock albums btw. Biggest 2nd track race: 1. Nirvana “Come As You Are” (“Nevermind” – 1991) – 617.2M 2. Metallica “Nothing Else Matters” (“Metallica” – 1991) – 595.2M 3. Guns ‘N Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” (“Appetite for Destruction” – 1987) – 578.6M 4. Bon Jovi “You Give Love A Bad Name” (“Slippery When Wet” – 1986) – 509.9M 5. AC/DC “You… Read more »

Maybe you’re wondering why Queen are missing from these lists, after all they are arguably the true streaming masters among 20th century artists. But the reason is that their top SEVEN tracks on Spotify are from seven different albums! Amazing actually. Their #8 track “We are the Champions” is the 2nd biggest track on “News of the World” with 480.7M, and rank #9 in the “Biggest 2nd track race”. And what about other 20th century artists with huge Spotify tracks, like Oasis, Mariah Carey, Journey, Toto, A-ha, the Eagles, Earth Wind & Fire and the Police? Well, while hardly one-hit-wonders,… Read more »


Thanks! I love these lists!




Will you do an update soon? This article was over 3 years ago.


His sales in Japan seem relatively weak for his overall Asai sales ..any reason?


It’s not that they’re weak there, he’s among the very top international sellers in Japan. It’s just that his sales in places like China, India, Taiwan and South Korea were utter massive and unmatched by any other western act at his time. You could argue he was the first western artist to ever break into the mainstream in some of these countries.


How did Madonna issue albums in a much more favourable era?

She had her peak with him and they both released albums in late 90s and early 2000s, Madonna released more.


Didn’t most of Madonna albums flop in the 90s? She just had one successful album with Ray of Light!

Last edited 1 year ago by PeterH

I don’t think an average of 10.3 million in the 90’s (without Ray of Light) is a flop 😗. Don’t confuse a flop with not being as ridiculously huge she was in the 80’s.


Average of 10 million?

Immaculate Collection is a compilation, it doesn’t count.

None of her albums except ROL sold 10 million in 90s.

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