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How Pop Radio’s Top 10 Songs Are Faring On The iTunes and Spotify Charts

Are pop radio hits like “Havana,” “New Rules,” and “How Long” also doing well on the sales and streaming fronts?

Camila Cabello on Fallon | Andrew Lipovsky/NBC

In July and September of this year, Headline Planet explored how the Top 10 songs at US pop radio were performing on the US iTunes and Spotify charts.

The pop radio landscape has changed since our last visit. We are also only a few days from the start of the New Year.

It feels fitting, therefore, to revisit the radio/iTunes/Spotify comparison.

In theory, the charts should all be linked. A song receiving ample radio play is generating valuable exposure, which should translate into strong sales and streaming numbers.

Strong sales and streaming numbers, meanwhile, may convince radio programmers that songs are connecting with listeners — and thus lead to bigger airplay.

The correlation (and associated analysis) will not, however, be perfect.

Labels continue to use iTunes pricing discounts to improve positioning on the sales chart. When analyzing discounted songs, does it make sense to ignore the impact of the discount and simply focus on how the song is charting? Or is it more logical to guess where the song would be charting without the discount?

The same goes for Spotify. Positioning on popular playlists like “Today’s Top Hits” can dramatically boost streaming numbers.

Spotify streaming, moreover, continues to favor rhythmic- and urban-leaning songs that do not all sound like conventional “pop hits.” Should we assume there will be an inherent disconnect between what succeeds on Spotify and what works at pop radio? Or, should we use Spotify preferences as proof that pop radio should reconsider the types of songs it plays?

Finally, it is important to consider the impact of audience research, including callout and switching scores. Radio programmers may look at this data in addition to (if not in favor of) sales and streaming numbers. Only a limited amount of this data is available to the public.

The rankings below are based on the building/real-time pop radio airplay chart for the December 24-30 tracking period, the real-time US iTunes chart (8:30PM ET on December 28) and daily US Spotify chart for December 27.

Typically, we would identify the songs that are down in airplay from last week; declines confirm that a song has peaked and should potentially be held to lower standards for sales and streams. That clarification is not as valuable this week, however, since airplay for all ten songs is down to make way for Christmas music (relevant early in the week) and year-end countdowns (relevant all week).

We did, however, identify songs that are down more than one place from their peak pop chart positions. It is pretty obvious that such songs are fading at radio.

Top 10 at pop radio:
1) Havana by Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug (#1 for the past 5 weeks)
#2 iTunes, #9 Spotify

2) Perfect by Ed Sheeran
#1 iTunes with discount (remixes with Beyonce and Andrea Bocelli are #26 and #61, respectively), #12 Spotify (Beyonce remix is #47)

3) Bad At Love by Halsey
#8 iTunes, #33 Spotify

4) New Rules by Dua Lipa
#17 iTunes, #26 Spotify

5) rockstar by Post Malone featuring 21 Savage
#4 iTunes, #1 Spotify

6) Too Good At Goodbyes by Sam Smith
#9 iTunes, #15 Spotify

7) Thunder by Imagine Dragons (clearly down from its #1 radio peak)
#3 iTunes (an additional mash-up with Khalid’s “Young Dumb & Broke” is #6 on iTunes), #42 Spotify

8) What Lovers Do by Maroon 5 featuring SZA (clearly down from its Top 5 radio peak)
#29 iTunes, #35 Spotify

9) How Long by Charlie Puth
#10 iTunes with , #62 Spotify

10) Wolves by Selena Gomez x Marshmello
#16 iTunes, #21 Spotify

“Havana” and “rockstar” are the only songs that appear in the Top 10 of the pop radio, iTunes and Spotify charts. It is worth noting, however, that Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” would be #2 on Spotify if the original and Beyonce versions were combined. It is already in the upper reaches of the radio and iTunes charts.

Top 10 iTunes performers that are not in the Top 10 at pop radio:
Bebe Rexha’s “Meant To Be” (#5 on iTunes with a discount, #22 and rising at radio), Khalid’s “Young Dumb & Broke” (#7 on iTunes, #21 at radio; its peak to-date is #20).

Top 10 Spotify performers that are not in the Top 10 at pop radio:
Post Malone’s “I Fall Apart” (#2 on Spotify; “rockstar” remains the label’s focus at pop radio, but “I Fall Apart” is gaining steam inside the format’s Top 50), Cardi B’s “Bartier Cardi” (#3 on Spotify; very recent release, pop radio push not yet confirmed), Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang” (#4 on Spotify; pop radio is not the core format, but it recently entered the Top 55), G-Eazy’s “No Limit” (#5 on Spotify; recently reached the Top 50 at pop radio, but the focus has shifted to “Him & I”), Offset & Metro Boomin’s “Ric Flair Drip” (#6 on Spotify; no plans for a pop push), G-Eazy & Halsey’s “Him & I” (#7 on Spotify; #18 and rising at radio), Post Malone’s “Candy Paint” (#8 on Spotify; no immediate plans for a pop push), and Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3” (#10 on Spotify; older song that received a moderate amount of pop airplay earlier this year).


Written by Brian Cantor

Brian Cantor is the editor-in-chief for Headline Planet. He has been a leading reporter in the music, movie, television and sporting spaces since 2002.

Brian's reporting has been cited by major websites like BuzzFeed, Billboard, the New Yorker and The Fader -- and shared by celebrities like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj.

Contact Brian at brian.cantor[at]

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