Is “Ghost Town” a hit?

The lead single from Adam Lambert’s third studio album has been praised for a lot of things. It was a clear step up from the commercial performance of “Better than I Know Myself” and “Never Close Our Eyes.” It posted strong early audience feedback from pop radio listeners and ultimately climbed into the top 20 of both the pop songs and adult pop songs airplay charts, and it has spent a solid 16 weeks (so far) on the Hot 100. Moreover, it has become an undisputed hit in several countries overseas, peaking in the top 15 in: Germany, Australia, Poland, South Africa, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and Russia.

Still, the song peaked at only #64 on the US Hot 100, #71 on the UK Singles Chart, #57 in Canada and it didn’t even chart at all in Japan, France, or Spain. Its music video has only 32.5 million views, which is hardly competitive with even middling pop hits like Ariana Grande’s “One Last Time,” which peaked at #13 on the US Hot 100 and currently has almost 160 million youtube views. “Ghost Town” never charted in the top 40 of Media Traffic’s global track chart (which compiles global sales and airplay data). So, can it really be considered a “hit” either in the globally or domestically?

I’m going to make the case that “Ghost Town” IS a hit. And, I am going to start by comparing it to “Bad Blood.”

“Bad Blood” peaked at #1 in at least six different countries, #2 on Euro Digital Songs, #20 in Japan, #4 in the UK, #1 in Australia, #1 in Canada, and #29 in Germany. In short, it charted pretty much everywhere, and made a strong showing in all of the biggest music markets. It is definitively a global hit by arguably the biggest popstar in the world. Further, “Bad Blood” was released after “Ghost Town,” early this past summer, and it went on to peak at #1 in the United States, which means that it is indisputably fair to compare it to “Ghost Town” (which might not be true of another Swift song, like “Style,” which was released before “Ghost Town,” or like “Wildest Dreams,” which has not yet peaked.

Global iTunes

Ghost Town’s position on the iTunes charts of every country in the world RIGHT NOW. 

Bad Blood’s position on the iTunes charts of every single country in the world RIGHT NOW. 

Notice: 1) While “Bad Blood” appears on the charts of more countries than “Ghost Town,” it is not that many more charts, and 2) “Bad Blood” is only charting in the top 50 of THREE countries; “Ghost Town is charting in the top 50 of SIXTEEN countries. “Ghost Town” is also charting in the top 100 of more countries than “Bad Blood” (25 v. 19).

Domestic iTunes

For the week ending October 8th, “Bad Blood” sold 19,000 copies in the United States. “Ghost Town” sold 12,000 copies.

“Ghost Town” US sales by week, chronological order: 15k (first week); 9k; 6k; 5k; 8k; 7k; 8k; 12k; 27k; 21k; 15k; 8k; 15k; 15k; 26k; 18k; 14k; 14k; 14k; 14k; 13k; 11k; 12k; 11k; 12k. Estimated 330,000 total copies sold in the United States as of 10/8/15.

“Bad Blood” – Estimated 2,999,000 total copies sold in the US as of 10/8/15.

Streaming

Ghost Town

Taylor Swift’s music does not appear on Spotify. However, her music video for “Bad Blood” was viewed about as many times in its first two days of release as “Ghost Town” has been viewed at all.

Kworb.net rankings

Kworb.net classifies every country into 5 tiers (based on music market size), and then assigns a point value to each song according to its ranking in each country. The largest countries have approximately 20 times as much influence on this chart than do the smallest countries. The resulting rankings give an imperfect measurement of global popularity.

“Ghost Town” currently sits at #45 in its 172nd charting day, after a peak of #18. It earned a total of 4978 chart points today. “Ghost Town” has 1,043,890 total chart points.

“Bad Blood” sits at #112, in its 146th charting day, after a peak of #2. It earned 1865 chart points today. “Bad Blood” has 1,660,758 total chart points.

In other words, “Bad Blood” doesn’t have a ton more chart points than “Ghost Town,” and “Ghost Town” is catching up. If the two songs were to continue earning their current number of points, it would take “Ghost Town” about 200 days to catch up, or just under 7 months.

Just to satiate your curiosity, “Wildest Dreams” has 579,393 points, and is gaining 10,705/day.

Shazam

“Ghost Town” – 3,221,385 total shazams – WW #31; US #62; Germany #23; Japan NA; Australia #88; Canada #43; China #94; France NA; UK NA; Russia #15

“Bad Blood” – 2,658,221 total shazams – WW NA; US NA; Germany NA; Japan #66; Australia NA; Canada NA; China NA; France NA; UK NA; Russia NA

Media Traffic Global Singles Chart

Media Traffic compiles sales and airplay data from pretty much every country in the world, and then weights it sales 75% of chart points; airplay 25%.

“Bad Blood” burned bright at the top of the global singles chart for a while, but then it fell hard and fast right off the bottom of the chart several weeks ago. “Ghost Town” never appeared in the top 40 of the chart, but it has held steady in the officially uncharted region around #50 for eight weeks. It is currently at #52, which corresponds to approximately 50,000 chart points.

“Bad Blood” Global Track Chart positions in reverse chronological order: -, -. -, 39, 31, 26, 17, 17 (earlier chart positions back to debut: 10, 7, 7, 5, 4, 5, 3, 2, 2, 2, 3)  Total “Bad Blood” chart points per week in reverse chronological order for the past eight weeks, with extrapolated estimates in parentheses: (25,000); (39,000); (54,000); 69,000; 84,000; 90,000; 112,000; 122,000… (earlier weekly chart points: 143,000; 165,000; 175,000; 199,000; 289,000; 239,000; 262,000; 296,000; 296,000; 323,000; and 425,000)

“Ghost Town” Global Track Chart positions in reverse chronological order: 52 (present position), 50, 48, 47, 52, 48, 49, 50. Total “Ghost Town” chart points per week in reverse chronological order for the past eight weeks, with estimates in parentheses: (49,000); (48,000); (56,000); (52,500); (55,000); (51,000); (45,500); (49,000);

“Ghost Town” was released on April 21st, 2015, giving it approximately 25 weeks of chart life. “Ghost Town”‘s position on Kworb’s iTunes-based global chart (chronological order), taken on April 21st and each Tuesday thereafter: 139 (daily positions in first week: 139, 35, 39, 44, 51, 66, 58) 59, 52, 54, 47, 58, 53, 35, 21, 23, 31, 36, 29, 32, 31, 31, 29, 28, 32, 31, 31, 33, 37, 45, 51. These kworb figures show a song that quickly rose to a substantial global presence where it has remained for most of its 25 weeks of chart life.

Conclusion: “Ghost Town” is a hit.

“Bad Blood” has stronger overall metrics. It has way more total sales, and its youtube streams are through the roof. But, “Ghost Town” has respectable sales figures that have withstood the test of time better. “Ghost Town”‘s youtube streaming figures are near their peak, nearly half a year after release. “Bad Blood”‘s youtube streaming figures are dropping like a rock. Luckily for TS, they were astronomical to begin with, so they are still at a more than respectable level. “Ghost Town”‘s US sales are still about where they have always been through its entire chart life, while he is at or near his peak globally. “Bad Blood”‘s US sales have fallen to within spitting distance of “Ghost Town”‘s.

Most importantly, “Ghost Town” is legitimately in a substantially higher place than “Bad Blood” globally right now. “Bad Blood” maintains its US edge and its youtube streaming edge, but it isn’t charting well in pretty much any countries anymore. It was dropping like a rock when it fell off the global track chart a three weeks ago, while “Ghost Town” is still meandering around just below the chart.

Germany has one of the largest music markets in the world. If a song is a major hit in Germany, then that qualifies it as a hit, period. “Ghost Town,” in its 17th week on the chart, is currently sitting at a to-date peak of #11 in Germany. That is a more than respectable charting position. But “Ghost Town” isn’t just a hit in Germany. “Ghost Town” is a legitimate top 15 hit in eight other countries: Australia, Poland, South Africa, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and Russia. Most of those countries have fairly substantial music industries. Tiny Austria is a thriving first world country, and it actually has the 16th largest music market in the world (ahead of both India and China). Adam Lambert does well in a swath of small European markets that are akin to US states. Put the pieces together, and you have the equivalent of a standard American hit song.

Further, “Ghost Town”‘s performance wasn’t actually that bad in the United States. Sure, it only peaked at #64 on the Hot 100, but it charted for a respectable 16 weeks. Contemporaneous songs that peaked higher on airplay charts also peaked sooner than “Ghost Town,” and they have since dropped off. After 25 weeks of promotion to US radio, only 6.8% of pop listeners reported being sick of hearing “Ghost Town,” 63% said they liked it,  and 18% said it was one of their favorite songs. Only 20.9% of listeners said they disliked the song, 11th best out of 63 current, recurrent, and gold songs that still get substantial pop radio airplay and have at least 60% familiarity. “Ghost Town”‘s net positive score of 42.1% is impressively the 12th best overall. After months of making 10s of millions of audience impressions per week in the United States, 83.1% of listeners now report familiarity with “Ghost Town,” placing it just under Taylor Swift’s popular new song “Wildest Dreams” and Justin Bieber’s equally popular new song “What do You Mean” (Both songs will likely reach 99% familiarity fairly soon, as they are currently galloping toward the top of the radio songs chart). But, 83% familiarity is hardly negligible. “Ghost Town” is finally dropping off of US radio, but not before charting for at least 20 weeks on Adult Pop Songs and 18 weeks on Pop Songs, and reaching the top 20 on both charts.

“Ghost Town” has legitimate and broad international appeal; “Bad Blood” is mostly just a Western import, without being driven by any kind of organic international fanbase. If Taylor Swift were unknown in the United States, it is unclear that she would have anything close to her current level of popularity outside the United States. Adam Lambert, by contrast, leans on his broad, organic international fanbase to keep him afloat in a sometimes hostile US media market.

Finally, “Bad Blood” is a massive US #1 hit song from arguably the biggest popstar in the world, right now. “Ghost Town” doesn’t have to BEAT “Bad Blood” in order to be a hit. The mere fact that “Ghost Town” can compete with “Bad Blood” on such a wide array of metrics indicates that it truly is a hit. In particular, “Bad Blood” peaked at only #29 in Germany, which is one of the largest music markets in the world. “Ghost Town” peaked at #11 in Germany after charting for 17 weeks. Taylor Swift is a huge star, and that tends to lead to strong early numbers in just about every country. To the extent that her impressive chart positions were achieved at debut, but were not followed by an extensive chart run, Adam Lambert’s less impressive peak, but steady and sustained success is competitive. And, ultimately, “Bad Blood,” which was released after “Ghost Town,” has already exhausted its chart run, and its global performance has now fallen below that of “Ghost Town.”

For all of the foregoing reasons, “Ghost Town” is a hit. But, just for the heck of it, what do you think?

Advertisements

Published by

pdaines

Peter Daines is a law student at Georgetown University Law Center. His interests include studying foreign languages, watching and predicting events in politics and the music industry, and searching fruitlessly for the meaning of life.

12 thoughts on “Is “Ghost Town” a hit?”

  1. Peter, I noticed that you chose an illustration for this article that belongs to an artist (not me) who has copyrighted the artwork and who has requested it be removed from some other “Ghost Town” fan posts and digital artwork. It is one of the nicest things that comes up in Google Image Search when you use the search term “Ghost Town” and so has been used several times in the past.

    ***

    On your comparison of GT to BB — I don’t think you made the case that GT is a hit. I think GT may be classified as a minor hit, but BB is a hit. They are not comparable.

    It is more like songs that become famous and garner broad awareness without ever being hits. And it does look like it will be signature song for Adam.

    Like

    1. No problem. I have changed the image to one that is not copyrighted.

      BTW, I think that becoming famous and garnering broad awareness is the definition of a hit. In my mind, “Ghost Town” is a hit if it is comparable internationally to an average song that peaks inside, say, the top 25 in the USA. Frequently, songs that are hits in the US make only a small or moderate dent internationally, so if Adam has a relatively strong international performance (especially in the countries with the largest music markets, including Japan, Germany, Australia, and the U.K.), then things can even out, and he can retain international “star” status despite his modest commercial performance in the United States.

      “Bad Blood,” for example, was actually a mediocre hit in most countries, but it WAS a hit on some level in almost all countries, and its massive performance the US cements TS as one of the biggest, if not THE biggest popstar on the planet. So, I don’t think Adam has to compete with “Bad Blood’s domestic performance in order to be considered a hit at all. If you take the United States out of the picture and compare the two songs, and “Ghost Town” is competitive, then it is a legitimate international hit, in my opinion. Of course, you are perfectly entitled to disagree. ;P

      Like

  2. I guess it’s a minor hit but for me it flushes out his previous image(which is good). “sometimes hostile US media market” can you explain? Is it because as he came from reality show? I do notice he’s more know as “_fill in the blank_” celebrity instead of his songs. I am a fan and I wish the image of him is protrayed by his own well known songs first.

    Like

    1. Yeah, one reason that the music market is sometimes hostile to him is because he came from the wrong “world.” To some extent, it is like when something goes viral on the web, and the “two-minute celebrity” tries to turn their fame into a music career. They have an initial fame-bump, but then they crash partly because they haven’t climbed through the industry and thereby don’t know how to create pop hits, partly because their two-minute fame runs out, and partly because the industry expects them to crash so it structures its investments in them accordingly.

      In the beginning (AND to a lesser extent NOW), it was also because he was openly gay! When he came out, the majority of the country was still opposed to gay marriage, and at the least, he was controversial. He was very in-your-face, with glam-pop, funky hair, and sheer amazingness, and that made him divisive. Radio programmers don’t want to put artists on the air that are controversial, that are risky, that people might not like. Between a potential big hit (which could alternately crash) and a definite moderate hit, which pleases everyone at least a bit, radio generally opts for the safe bet. That is the biggest coup of “Ghost Town.” Adam Lambert proved to radio programmers that he wasn’t scary, that his songs weren’t going to tank, and that he was a viable mainstream artist. As he continues on the same path, he will eventually get radio spins more easily, and he will score bigger debuts, and get more attention, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Peter, I am very impressed with the amount of forethought, research and comprehensiveness you put into this piece. Excellent work and very well done. I’m one that says that GT deserves major kudos for staying on the US charts for as long as it did, and in great positions on various charts, whereas other songs did not, or bigger songs came and went much more quickly, that makes it a hit for Adam, albeit in a different way than a song such as BB.

    I particularly appreciate (and actually really dug!) the information you posted about people “not being sick” of it, which is a great credit to its longevity. I am sure that if you put other bigger songs up there, they would not have the same stamina.

    Finally — you are aware that “Ghost Town” and “Bad Blood” are both Max Martin/Shellback-produced songs, right? 🙂

    Like

  4. I really appreciate your response. Looking back, I agree with your point about programmers at that time. It seems at times medias treatment were pretty negative i guess that’s how they treat reality contestants especially a guy with makeup. I guess he attempted to create this in your face persona to be part of the cool kids, not your wholesome average reality contestant. He glam pop look didn’t quite appeal to the mainstream demographic, sonically the song weren’t real alternative for those crowd(goth rock guys with makeups) Maybe a gaga lite but that requires him to have big diva persona (or so perceived/ categorized by the masses) oh, he was sexual and I guess they thought that was requested by the core fan base yet non stans might have turned off. I assume most people that love him because he can really sing on idol and they don’t care if he sings a phone book in pajamas. And the demographic that watches idol are not those go to coachella or tomorrowland. Then to some rock-ish people, they only heard WWFM and thought he is just another cute boy (dismissed by hard rock demo). On the surface, this guy is the whole package, yet he has stigma/ predispose ideas against him. When listening to a voice/station on the radio..people sort of have the image in their head what the singer should look like or of what categories.. boy band voice , indie voice, EDM DJ stuffs, hot gals, sweethearts, feminist empowerment, blue eye soul … This time someone seems to trying to create this ultimate mainstream male singer in terms of image, put Elvis hair, Ricky Martins body and George Michaels beard (well if pop listeners actually know who they are..)with some songs from Max and association with Queen. Oh well… This album is very good. I hope he does get the recognition.

    Like

  5. Hello Peter. Since you have spent a lot of time on this. What’s your take on his move next? Is there a future? Is it bad move on attempting to open for someone?

    Like

    1. An opening act gets tons of the best kind of publicity amongst the fanbase of a major popstar. It’s like radio airplay for album cuts. If you can fill the stage and make a good impression, you can build your brand. Adam has already built a global band by touring stadiums with queen, but he didn’t perform his current, original music. So, he really did just miss out on a valuable opportunity. Still, Adam Lambert does have a strong international brand and a to-die-for core fan base. So, he’s not going away any time soon.

      It’s too early to tell if “another lonely night” will catch on and be a radio hit.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s