What’s a Christmas Smash Worth on Spotify? Close to a Million, if You’re Mariah Carey

Chris Willman
·3-min read

The writers of some of the biggest perennial Christmas hits — or their estates, given how far back some of these songs go — are making some decent coin via streaming every year, according to a study released Wednesday that calculated the likely payouts from Spotify this season for the holiday songs that dominate music consumption in December.

Although these amounts alone may not support the stars in the styles to which they’ve become accustomed, it’s clear that for some, releasing holiday material can at least set up a nice Christmas bonus each year.

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According to the UK design firm Nofollowdesigns, Mariah Carey’s dominative “All I Want for Christmas Is You” should have made $946,000 in earnings from Spotify for the period beginning Nov. 1 and ending Dec. 28, looking at the number of streams accumulated on the service — 210 million — and a standard payout rate of $0.0045. (That money won’t all go to Carey, of course; co-writer/producer Walter Afanasieff also stands to benefit from the bounty.)

The firm calculated that Wham!’s “Last Christmas” was the second-biggest money-generating Christmas song on Spotify in the last two months, with 180 million plays turning up $810,000 in income.

Third in this estimation was Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me,” with 148 million Spotify plays bringing in $666,000.

These first three are relatively contemporary songs, from the 1980s forward, but the list is also dotted with far more retro holiday classics, like Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” which had 138 million Spotify streams with a potential payout of $620,000.

Although the list largely matches up with the oldies that have dominated the Billboard and Rolling Stone charts in the last few weeks, there are some surprising contemporary choices. Lil Nas X’s new-to-2020 “Holiday” has not been a major hit, by most chart standards — but it was on Spotify, where it accumulated just over 100 million streams during the period, good enough to collect $450,000 in earnings.

Sia’s “Snowman,” from her much-hailed Christmas album of all-original material three years ago, has not yet become a radio staple. But it was big on Spotify this year, thanks in part to its use as part of a TikTok challenge. With 66.7 million streams on the service, it is believed to have brought in $300,000 for the singer and co-writer Greg Kurstin. (It wasn’t Sia’s only successful Christmas streamer — her “Santa’s Coming for Us” had 32 million Spotify plays and $146,000 in estimated collections.)

Other surprises on Nofollowdesigns’ list of Spotify Christmas hits include some that may have more appeal overseas in America, like Shakin’ Stevens’ “Merry Christmas Everyone” (51 million Spotify streams, $229,000 in revenue), Kylie Minogue’s “Santa Baby” (37 million plays, $165,000), Liam Payne’s “Naughty List” (30 million streams, $136,000) and Leona Lewis’ “One More Sleep” (27 million plays, $124,000).

While Nofollowdesigns is not a data company, the firm, which creates artwork for musicians, was able to use publicly available information to calculate the earnings for these most-streamed holiday songs. See the company’s entire list of estimated Spotify income for 50 Christmas chestnuts here.

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