CSPC: AC/DC Popularity Analysis
AC/DC, the Thunder from Down Under, were formed in Sydney, Australia, in 1973 by Malcolm Young and his schoolboy uniform wearing little brother Angus. After finding international success in 1979 with the seminal Highway to Hell album, they were suddenly struck by mortality. However, when lead singer Bon Scott died aged 33 in February 1980 they replaced one legendary front man with another. With Brian Johnson at the microphone they soon released their landmark Back in Black album, which transformed them into superstars of the Hard Rock genre.
Today, the future of the band is uncertain. Brian Johnson almost lost his hearing, forcing AC/DC to finish their latest tour in 2016 with singer Axl Rose of Guns ‘N Roses stepping in. Add to this, sadly, in November 2017 Malcolm Young died following years of dementia, leaving Angus Young as the only member left from the classic line-up.
Many claims have been made about AC/DC‘s record sales. Supposedly they’re over 200 million. Back in Black has been heralded by some as the 2nd biggest album of all time behind Michael Jackson‘s Thriller. While this may not be the case, we do know AC/DC are one of the strongest catalog sellers in the business. But how do they stack up against other Hard Rock behemoths like Metallica and Led Zeppelin? It’s time to find out.
As usual, I’ll be using the Commensurate Sales to Popularity Concept in order to relevantly gauge their results. This concept will not only bring you sales information for all AC/DC‘s albums, physical and download singles, as well as audio and video streaming, but it will also determine their true popularity. If you are not yet familiar with the CSPC method, the next page explains it with a short video. I fully recommend watching the video before getting into the sales figures. Of course, if you are a regular visitor feel free to skip the video and get into the figures.
Now that I’ve listed the bottom tracks compared to jan 2019, let’s look at their top 30 tracks on Spotify as of 7/2/2023 (and jan19): 1 (1) Back in Black – 1212,6M (343,0) 2 (2) Highway to Hell – 1174,0M (329,2) 3 (3) Thunderstruck – 1126,8M (327,5) 4 (4) You Shook Me All Night Long – 828,1M (231,2) 5 (5) T.N.T. – 547,9M (158,2) 6 (6) Hells Bells – 316,4M (92,0) 7 (7) Shoot To Thrill – 310,7M (90.4) 8 (8) Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap – 291,2M (83,3) 9 (9) It’s a Long Way to the Top – 204,3M… Read more »
Least streamed songs on their pre-2010 albums :
Back In Black 18m
Highway To Hell 10m
High Voltage 6m
Dirty Deeds 4m
Let There Be Rock 4m
Black Ice 4m
The Razors Edge 4m
Stiff Upper Lip 3m
For Those About To Rock 2m
Fly On The Wall 1m
Blow Up Your Video 1m
Flick Of The Switch 1m
Zeppelin for comparison :
Houses Of The Holy 11m
Physical Graffiti 6m
In Through The Out Door 4m
It’s true that AC/DC have a lot more forgotten/overlooked tracks than Led Zeppelin. In all fairness they’ve had a much longer recording career. AC/DC released about 175 regular songs, Led Zeppelin about 75. It’s like comparing Guns n Roses to Aerosmith. It’s easy to discover all of GnRs catalog, Aerosmith not so easy. With just 3 studio albums Nirvana is another example. Lots of fans would hear all their tracks repeatedly. And listen to Nirvana randomly on Spotify, after an hour or two you’re deep into their catalog. I know Led Zep have 8 studio albums and are somewhere in… Read more »
The Beatles have released more songs than AC/DC :
Abbey Road 27m
Rubber Soul 14m
Magical Mystery Tour 14m
Let It Be 14m
Sgt Peppers 14m
The Beatles 11m
Please Please Me 9m
A Hard Day’s Night 6m
With The Beatles 6m
Beatles For Sale 6m
Plus all of the “orphan” stuff (Hey Jude…etc).
Some of Metallica’s albums are quite recent so it’s difficult to compare, Load/Reload are around 6m I think, St Anger more like 5m, which isn’t that much for a 2003 album…
Obviously, the Beatles rule just about any stat you can think of 😉
The Rolling Stones have an insanely long recording career. Almost 30 studio albums. If you listen to the “This is the Rolling Stones” spotify playlist of 50 songs (3½ hours) you have barely heard all their hits, let alone deep cuts. Compare that to smaller catalogs by GnR or Nirvana and it’s no wonder that the Stones have a lot more small/forgotten tracks.
I think you’re focusing too much on playlists, Metallica or Zeppelin fans are mostly into albums, not playlists. Metallica for example : Master Of Puppets 32m Ride The Lightning 27m And Justice For All 26m Metallica 24m Kill Em All 15m Load 6m Reload 5m St Anger 5m These numbers simply represent the popularity of these albums, the Rolling Stones have a lot of forgotten tracks because they have a lot of forgotten albums… Aerosmith is a perfect example, they have more Spotify followers than Zeppelin but check this out : Toys In The Attic 2.1m Aerosmith 1.7m Get A… Read more »
I think a lot of listeners use Spotify more like the radio. They add some favorites. Some songs, some artists. And then Spotify’s algorithm plays similar stuff. And this is likely to be popular songs. This way popular songs get even more popular, forgotten ones stay, well forgotten. My point is that artists with a large catalog are more likely to have forgotten songs than artists with a smaller catalog. I’m an album guy. I still have all my vinyls, but I rarely stream an album from start to finish online. When I do, it’s usually when I check out… Read more »
I’m with Analord on this and always have been. I think it’s far more to do with popularity than playlists. The simple fact for me, is that a lot of DCs albums are just not very popular. Same with Queen, even although the film boosted a lot of their underperforming album tracks. In my opinion the reason those 3 albums by GNR and Nirvana are so well streamed is to do with each bands popularity. Many other acts have 3 album catalogues but do not manage the streams those acts do, so that proves to me that having a small(er)… Read more »
Well, if Queen only had 3 albums they likely wouldn’t have had any songs under 100m plays…
And if Nirvana had released 15 albums I’m sure they would have many unpopular songs.
I agree GnR and Nirvana have many streams because they are very popular. Obviously. But so are Queen, AC/DC, Rolling Stones, Aerosmith… All I’m saying is if Nirvana and Guns had released 15 albums, they would likely have many poor performing tracks as well…
“Bleach” is not very good, but Nirvana fans, Nevermind fans don’t have many other options do they? So Bleach has strong figures. Whether its due algorithms, playlists or whatever, if Nirvana had a 10-15 album career I bet Bleach had a lot of forgotten tracks…
But your debating in “ifs” and that is pointless. What we do know is, many past acts have had a career of 3 studio albums but not many, if any, have the streams of GNR or Nirvana. If it is so easy to get these kind of streams from 3 albums and playlists, every 3 album act would have them, but they don’t, so this has to be about their popularity.
I feel like both of you Martin and Analord are missunderstanding the point of Thomas. He isn’t saying that had Queen only released their first 3 albums, they would be Abbey Roads, obviously not. Not that GnR and Nirvana are weak/average bands. The point is, had Queen’s strength been concentrated in 3 albums, say put 2-3 big hits per album then random deep cuts from them, streams of these deep cuts would be way higher than they are in the current configuration. And the point is, had Nirvana or GnR continued up to now a la Pearl Jam or RHCP,… Read more »
I get what Thomas is saying, I just disagree that it is totally to do with playlists, in my opinion it’s more to do with popularity. The reason those AC/DCs albums are such poor streamers, is that for the most part they are just not very popular albums and never have been. The public don’t really care about stuff like Flick of The Switch, Fly On The Wall, Stiff Upper Lip, Ballbreaker, Powerage, Blow Up Your Video or even For Those About To Rock and never did, they were not particularly popular on release are not now. I think too… Read more »
“even Zeppelin”. You said it. You disagree with me, but still you actually backed up my point that as things are comparing least popular tracks by Zeppelin and AC/DC is somewhat unfair. Now had Zeppelin carried on another decade without Bonham and realeased another 5-6 albums, then comparing them to AC/DC or the Stones or Aerosmith might have been more fair. Granted Zeppelin would still have come out on top. They were the more popular group and have the sales to prove it. But their massive classic rock radio airplay would have been split between more songs, their massive catalog… Read more »
“Most acts… even Zeppelin”. You said it Martin. You disagree with me and that’s allright. But still you actually backed up my point that catalog size matter, that as things are comparing least popular tracks by Zeppelin and AC/DC is somewhat unfair. Now had Zeppelin carried on another decade without Bonham and released another 5-6 albums, then comparing them to AC/DC or the Stones or Aerosmith might have been more fair. Granted Zeppelin would still have come out on top. They were the more popular group and have the sales to prove it. But their massive classic rock radio airplay… Read more »
I didn’t say it was catalogue size Thomas, I said it was a decline in popularity, due to the length of career, two different things. Zeppelin were pretty popular from start to finish, just Presence and ITTOD were not as popular or successful as their first 6 albums. Although saying that, both albums were still quite successful, hitting #1 in the US and UK and both entering in the Top 10 in the US (quite a rare feat pre Soundscan) Presence at #2 and ITTOD at #10 (it entered at #1 on Cashbox). ITTOD was even the Top Selling album… Read more »
“The reason those AC/DCs albums are such poor streamers, is that for the most part they are just not very popular albums and never have been.”
Exactly, that was my only point. Zeppelin’s albums are way more popular than AC/DC’s, which explains these very low numbers for AC/DC’s least streamed songs. People really care about Metallica albums and they really don’t care about Aerosmith albums, that’s all. AC/DC are kind of in between I guess?
“Well, if Queen only had 3 albums they likely wouldn’t have had any songs under 100m plays…”
What? If Queen broke up after their 3rd album I don’t even know if one of their songs would’ve 100m streams (maybe Killer Queen).
““Bleach” is not very good”
11th best album from 1989 according to critics, 13th best grunge album ever according to Rolling Stone, and music nerds on RateYourMusic gave it way more ratings than Back In Black (24k vs 17k).
MJD explained my point perfectly above. A lot better than me I’m sure. I know Queen didn’t blast out of the gates with their 3 first albums. Obviously. But had their catalog been limited to 1975 – 1979 only. Then their deep cuts from ANATO, ADATR, NOTW & Jazz would have been much bigger. Massive. Because they wouldn’t have to split listening time with 10 more albums. And that might be a big if. Because they did release a lot of albums. Befire and after. So it might not make any sense to compare deep catalog songs by Queen and… Read more »
Im sorry about my comment about “Bleach”. That didn’t come out right. Again, Gui explained it much better.
I think you were correct about Bleach still. The thing with this kind of albums is that they have next to no general public awareness, yet the artist has a very solid fanbase. It creates a situation where most people speaking about it / rating it online will have a very favorable bias to it. ‘Lists of lists’, understand sites merging together tons of lists from users, benefit to these albums that are pushed a lot by a restricted number of people. It’s very visible when we look at it closely. On besteveralbums, Bleach is listed as the 6th best… Read more »
Sorry but ranking albums by average ratings on “besteveralbums” is ridiculous 😆 For example, the #6 album only has 9 votes (with a 80/100 note) and most of the top 100 albums only have a dozen votes, while Bleach has 1250 votes with a 76/100 note… Again, Bleach is the 11th best album from 1989 according to critics, maybe you don’t care about critics, that’s fine, I also mentioned RateYourMusic which essentially represent people who goes beyond pop/commercial stuff, their #1 album is OK Computer (85k ratings), and as I said Bleach has 24k and Back In Black 17k. Even… Read more »
Hi Analord! Please, prevent me the “pleases”, especially when you base your message, as usual, on misquotes 😉 I don’t think I’ve said that the list by average ratings is amazing, have I? These lists are all ridiculous, including the ones you mentioned, that’s the point. You say that RateYourMusic is great because “it goes beyond pop/commercial stuff”, as if that was a good thing, and even highlight how Bleach has more ratings than BIB. I would have expected that you would realize yourself when saying something like this that all it proves is the bias of these ratings. The… Read more »
Oh boy… I never said RateYourMusic is “great”, I just mentioned them. I’ve no idea what you mean by them having a “massive pro-Nirvana bias”, do you mean that Nirvana is considered to be cooler and less commercial than AC/DC? Thomas said “Bleach is not very good” as if it was an established fact, I said critics love the album, a simple counter-argument, I don’t really care about critics myself. Also, Bleach is 11th with a top 10 including De La Soul, Madonna, New Order, Soul II Soul and the Beastie Boys, so your rant about “classic rock heritage” or… Read more »
“Have you ever check similar lists from other countries to see how your claim holds, or are we supposed to just accept that the US media defines the world?”
This list represents critics from a dozen countries, including Belgium, Poland, Norway, Italy…etc., it’s the best website I know when it comes to critical consensus, if you know a better one please tell me…
And here’s the bottom 20 Bon Scott era songs on Spotify as of 2/2/2023: 1 (1) You Ain’t Got a Hold on Me 2307K (74JB) 2 (2) Soul Stripper 2825K (74JB) 3 (3) Show Business 2846K (74JB) 4 (4) Up To My Neck in You 3430K (Powerage) 5 (5) Kicked in the Teeth 3653K (Powerage) 6 (6) Overdose 4027K (LTBR) 7 (8) Gimme a Bullet 4219K (Powerage) 8 (9) Squealer 4296K (DDDDC) 9 (11) There’s Gonna Be Some Rockin’ 4301K (DDDDC) 10 (12) Love At First Feel 4374K (DDDDC) 11 (7) Baby, Please Don’t Go 4634K (74JB) 12 (10) Down… Read more »
Powerage is without doubt my favourite album of theirs. Not sure exactly, why its tracks are so unloved in general, maybe because it doesn’t have any hugely popular tracks on it, to bring people to it. I’ve read a few forums etc, where a lot of people and AC/DC fans, also claimed it to be their best.
Powerage is indeed the typical fan choice. I’ve read that a lot too. I”ve been an AC/DC fan as long as I can remember. Since way before I learned any English. And I love Powerage too. It’s more consistant to me than DDDDC. Maybe more than High Voltage too. And Sin City & Riff Raff should have been HUGE imo. However, I always preferred the Let There Be Rock & Highway to Hell albums. Still do. Those are even more consistant and have better top tracks imo. Btw. I probably should have included the demo version for Get it Hot.… Read more »
I’m not sure I had any of their albums prior to buying That’s The Way I Wanna Rock and Roll but that was definitely the first contemporary record I bought by them, a 12″ picture disc, with Angus on it, if I remember correctly lol. So I guess I’ve been a fan since at least early 88. I’m pretty sure Back In Black and Highway To Hell, were the first two I got into, BIB first, then HTH. I then picked up tons of their albums over the next few years, in 2nd hand shops, charity shops, 2nd hand record… Read more »
Interesting. Well, mindblowing actually. I can’t find a single weak spot on LTBR! Well, each to their own. I do agree with you on Beating Around the Bush. It’s my least fave on HTH. HTH, Touch Too Much and Shot Down in Flames being my top 3 on that album. Incredible album. DDDDC is my least fave Bon album. The title track is great, but maybe not as great as it’s reputation. Big Balls is more funny than good. Rocker was never my cup of tea. And There’s Gonna Be Some Rockin’ is possibly my least fave Bon tune ever.… Read more »
I just reworded my reply, so your reply might look odd now!
Yeah, I’m just the exact opposite to you with LTBR, even Rosie doesn’t work for me as a studio version…I need to hear “Angus”…”Angus”. For me, there’s just nothing standout on it and I’ve never been a big fan of the actual track LTBR, I actually think there are a few weak/filler tunes on it. Sorry lol
Inspired by the comments from Martin and myself I thought it would make sense to look at the bottom Bon Scott era tracks too. B-sides and rarities excluded. From an international point of view that is. For example. “Love Song” and “Soul Stripper” are both on the Australian debut album (1975), “Soul Stripper” was then included on the 5 song EP “74Jailbreak” (1984), “Love Song” was not. So internationally “Love Song” remained a rarity (now available on the “Backtracks” boxset). I’ll start by posting the list as of Jan 2019, the time I posted the old list of Brian tracks.… Read more »
It’s about 4 years ago I looked at AC/DC’s least streamed tracks. Has anything changed? Here’s the bottom 20 – not including B-sides and rarities: 1 (1) Brainshake 1066K (FOTS) 2 (4) Some Sin for Nuthin’ 1095K (BUYV) 3 (2) Send for the Man 1139K (FOTW) 4 (3) Deep in the Hole 1266K (FOTS) 5 (11) Ruff Stuff 1328K (BUYV) 6 (13) Go Zone 1339K (BUYV) 7 (12) Nick of Time 1353K (BUYV) 8 (6) Hell or High Water 1376K (FOTW) 9 (14) Meanstreak 1431K (BUYV) 10 (5) Stand Up 1459K (FOTW) 11 (8) Landslide 1529K (FOTS) 12 (7) Bedlam… Read more »
They need to avoid calling any future recordings, a title that begins with S, ends with D, has two Ls, one O, one E, one N and one B, in it and has exactly ten letters! lol Personally, I don’t really rate anything post Back In Black. I’ve enjoyed a handful of tracks that were contemporary to me, such as Who Made Who, That’s The Way…, Heatseeker, Thunderstruck and Rock N Roll Train but not one of their post BIB albums (and I’ve owned them all, since the late 80s) has left any kind of lasting impression on me. I… Read more »
Snowballed and Spellbound? LOL!
Bon was something else. There’s a reaon no Bon songs are in the bottom 20.
But as you know, I’m a fan of both frontmen.
AC/DC surpassed 200m EAS. Congratulation !
T.N.T. just crossed 500m on Spotify, their fifth song to do so. There are only two other 20th century acts who can match that, Guns N’ Roses with also five songs (Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door is at 509m) and of course Queen who have… eleven songs over 500m 😆
Oh I missed Elton John :
Rocket Man 788m
Your Song 620m
Tiny Dancer 583m
I’m Still Standing 579m
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 536m
There’s also Fleetwood Mac;
The Chain 774m
Go Your Own Way 712m
The Rolling Stones are getting there
Paint It Black 792m
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction 552m
Sympathy For The Devil 462m
Start Me Up 459m
Gimme Shelter 457m
and obviously the RHCP, who have 4 from the 90s and 3 from the 00s.
I’m not including live versions though, I don’t think it makes much sense personally… In any case, Landslide has 488m streams so it will reach 500m very soon indeed.
The Beatles are also getting there too:
Here Comes the Sun–893m
Let It Be–509m
I just looked at his digital sales and there are some wild differences when it comes to what used to be his most popular songs : Tiny Dancer 4.2m Your Song 2.7m Rocket Man 2.6m Bennie & The Jets 2.1m (338m streams) Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 1.1m (224) I’m Still Standing 1.1m ! Can You Feel The Love Tonight 0.9m (238) Candle In The Wind 0.9m (129) Step Into Christmas 0.8m (192) Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 0.7m !! AC/DC’s Highway To Hell is also an interesting case, only 50% of Back In Black’s sales but now they both have… Read more »
That movie Rocket Man changed things. I think Elton’s streams were way lower prior to the movie, in fact I think Madonna was outstreaming him prior to the movie (could be wrong about that one though).
February 2018 (15 months before the movie) : Like A Prayer 85m Material Girl 63m Like A Virgin 58m Vogue 52m La Isla Bonita 46m Holiday 28m Into The Groove 24m Frozen 23m Papa Don’t Preach 23m Ray Of Light 17m Your Song 132m Rocket Man 130m Tiny Dancer 111m Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 83m Can You Feel The Love Tonight 69m Bennie & The Jets 68m Step Into Christmas 45m I’m Still Standing 38m Candle In The Wind 36m Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 36m As you can see, it was already very different from his digital sales, just… Read more »
Thanks for backing up with data! Interesting that Madonna’s streams are way worse than her digital sales. She outsold The Beatles, (due to them releasing their catalogue very late on itunes), Elvis, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, Elton (by a lot) and U2. But now she lags behind all of them.
But that’s largely because she was still very successful in the 2000s, a song like 4 Minutes sold 5m copies for example, but Material Girl or Like A Virgin only sold 1m… Compared with Elton :
Tiny Dancer 4.2m
Your Song 2.7m
Rocket Man 2.6m
Bennie & The Jets 2.1m
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 1.1m
So her back catalog was already much less popular despite her being much more relevant during the 2000s… She also sold more than AC/DC :
Back In Black 5.9m
You Shook Me All Night Long 3.7m
Highway To Hell 3.1m
Hells Bells 2.1m
Great data, thank you!
Today AC/DC’S classic song “Back in Black” became their first to pass 1 Billion plays on Spotify (1.000.087.000)!
The track is now 1 of 16 pre-2000 tracks to pass that threshold.
The next in line are likely AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” (962.2M) and Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” (961.4M). “Thunderstruck” is also well on it’s way to make it 3 for AC/DC (919.2M).
Leading track is Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” with 1859.2M. So far Queen is the only act with multiple tracks on the list. They have 4 (Bo Rhap, Don’t Stop Me Now, Another One Bites & Under Pressure).
Not that Rumours is not insanely popular anyway, but Dreams has went crazy, since that Tik Tok guy on the skateboard.
I’ve not really been following the pre 2000 songs much of late, will AC/DC have 3 over 1B, before anybody else has 2?
Yes they will. Besides Queen of course. They already have 4.
Yeah, that’s what I meant, excluding Queen.
After AC/DC next in line to have 2 pre 2000 songs over 1B are the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Under the Bridge 908.1M
And then Nirvana’s 2nd song is Come as You Are with 835.7M.
Of course by then Queen are gonna have 5 songs top 1B!
We Will Rock You 887.2M
Californication was released in the summer of 2000 though, the album is from 1999 but I think the most important thing is when did these songs became famous.
About AC/DC, let’s not forget that they arrived late on Spotify (2015), if not Highway To Hell would’ve probably reach 1B already, and Thunderstruck would be very close.
Californication was indeed released as the 4th single from the album in may 2000. But the album, and first 3 singles, were released in 1999. The album debuted and peaked at #3 in June 1999. Therefore I consider all it’s songs released pre-2000. However, it is possible the song benefitted from being fairly recent when Spotify began. I have a list of top pre-2000 songs dated feb. 2018 on which Californication rank as #10. 4 years later (jan. 2022) it’s down to #25. So it’s popularity is fading somewhat compared to the other oldies on the list. But the same… Read more »
Yeah it’s possible that Under The Bridge’s popularity is partly explained by the Chilis’ massive success during the 1999-2006 period, so even though the song is from 1991 its trajectory might be closer to a song from 2000 or so.
Btw I truly have no idea why my post got so many downvotes… I’m gonna assume there’s some weirdo out there with fake accounts who doesn’t like me 😆
Today “Hells Bells” passed 250M plays on Spotify (250.142M). That’s a big threshold for any song, any song that old anyway (1980). But it’s also the 3rd song from “Back in Black” to reach this mark. That’s big for a catalog album, but not unheard of. I know of 15 other pre-2000 albums reaching that. “Hells Bells” always kinda went toe-to-toe with “Shoot to Thrill” though, also from BIB. And sure enough, that one stands at 249.614M plays and will become the 4th song from BIB above 250M in just a few days! THIS is rare as just one other… Read more »