“Perfect Illusion” Update

“Perfect Illusion” was the 8th most-heard song overall on all of US radio during its first day of release, with 17 million Kworb-standard impressions. Radio impressions for subsequent days have been around 3.2M.

Primarily on the strength of first-day promotional airplay, “Perfect Illusion” debuted on the Pop Songs (Top 40) and HAC (Adult Pop Songs) weekly radio airplay charts for the tracking week ending Saturday, September 10th at #s 31 and 32 respectively.

NOTE: Sales and streaming are tracked on a Thursday – Thursday basis, and the two days of radio airplay were not alone enough to spark a debut on the Hot 100 for the tracking week that Billboard just reported on yesterday. This means that the initial promotional radio airplay spike will not count towards Gaga’s Hot 100 debut ranking. 

“Perfect Illusion” currently ranks at #4 on iTunes, and its sales decline appears to have slowed if not completely stabilized. Kworb.net currently estimates 95,000 first-week sales. Although not close to record-shattering, this is a robust figure that is consistent with the recent debuts of other big hits by major artists. It is comparable, for example, to the debut of Sia’s “The Greatest,” which is already clearly another huge hit. Of course, it is also comparable to the debut sales of Britney Spears’ “Make Me Ooh,” which subsequently stalled at radio.

“Perfect Illusion” currently ranks at #68 on the running weekly radio airplay chart. Given current trends, it should peak just inside the top 50 before its first-day promotional airplay drops off of the running tally.

On Spotify, “Perfect Illusion” was streamed 465,095 times in the United States on Monday, down from a peak of 594,798 on Friday, but up from a low of 422,776 on Sunday. It received 500,663 streams on Saturday. It is currently ranked at its low point of #30 on US Spotify. It debuted and peaked at #21. “Perfect Illusion” is currently at #32 on the Global Spotify chart with 1,432,210 streams on Monday.

By comparison, Sia’s “The Greatest” ranks at #11 on Global Spotify with 2,420,304 streams, and #15 on US Spotify with 613,759 streams. The #1 song on US and Global Spotify received 2,216,474 streams and 6,337,912 streams, respectively.

Gaga seems to have the strongest performance in Latin America and Mainland Europe. Here are the iTunes and Spotify positions for “Perfect Illusion” in every country in the world right now:

Perfect Illusion


“Perfect Illusion” scores solid 17 million first-day radio impressions

As expected, Lady Gaga’s new single has had a warm reception at pop and adult pop (HAC) radio during its first day of release, opening at #s 33 and 38, respectively, on the formats’ running weekly rankings.

Overall, Gaga’s new song was the #8 most-played song on US radio on Friday, largely based on the strength of promotional hourly airplay from iHeartRadio stations.

On iTunes, “Perfect Illusion” dropped to #2 on Saturday morning, in the face of continued strong sales for The Chainsmokers’ “Closer.” Both songs, however, maintain 2-1 sales leads over the #3 song, Twenty One Pilots’ “Heathens.” As previously reported, Gaga’s new single is expected to debut at #2 on digital songs after its first full week of sales, with 100,000 to 150,000 copies sold.

On the Billboard Hot 100, “Perfect Illusion” seems likely to debut in the top ten. It may crack the top 5, but is unlikely to contend for the #1 slot in the absence of intervention (i.e. music video drop, new scandal, television appearances, etc.).

Reviews of “Perfect Illusion” have been all over the board, with many commenters praising the song as one of Gaga’s best, but some were “unimpressed.” This review sums up the nuances of the contradictory positions particularly well.

One of the most-liked comments on “Perfect Illusion”‘s official audio on YouYube reads:

Perfect Illusion:
1st listen: What just happened…
2nd: I’ll give it a few more chances
30th: Bitch take the grammy

Taylor Swift Radio Airplay Update

If you add up all current Taylor Swift radio airplay for her 7 1989 singles, she has just barely less radio airplay than the current #1 radio song. 188 million (TS) compared to 192 million audience impressions for Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself.”

That consists of: 47.5m from TS’s current single; 3m from last single; 60m from 3 singles ago, 14m from 4 singles ago; 26m from 5 singles ago; 20 million from 6 singles ago; and 19 million from 7 singles ago.

I have italicized the singles that each peaked at or near #1 on radio (178m+). The two most recent singles have peaked at 68.8m and 47.5m, respectively.

The one italicized song that did NOT reach #1 (which peaked at #3 with 178m), is “Style” (5 singles ago), with 26m in current weekly audience impressions.

1) I find it fascinating that the one song of the first 4 with the lowest radio peak and worst commercial performance (the one song that did not reach #1 on the Hot 100) is the song with the strongest continued radio airplay.

2) I find it fascinating that the two most-recent singles have had such a dramatically smaller radio peak than did TS’s prior singles.

It seems that TS’s label is continuing to release radio singles to generate passive revenue, but is no longer interested in spending money to promote said singles beyond TS’s inherent celebrity. If so, then this is a fascinating data set which can be used to calculate the true value of/return on label promotion for a single. However, it is not necessarily the case that the label did absolutely nothing to promote these singles (it created a music video for “Out of the Woods,” for example). Unfortunately, we can never know the full extent of label promotion, short of the label actually telling us. However, I still think this is a fascinating data set, and it is likely the closest we will ever get to a perfect data set.

Fantastic New Song from Haley Reinhart, Just as “Can’t Help Falling in Love” Reaches Top 30 on Adult Pop

First, watch Haley perform her new single, “Love is Worth Fighting For” live in concert, HERE, courtesy of Haley’s Tusk.

Ok guys, this is a live performance in concert, but Haley’s vocals are FREAKING AMAZING. Most artists need 50 takes in the studio before they find something half-decent, but this could seriously be the version of the song that Haley releases to radio. Seriously KUDOS.

In other news, Haley’s version of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” is making real inroads on Adult Pop, rising to #30 during the most recent tracking week. On the rolling weekly chart, it has 590 spins (-3 today), representing 3.833 million weekly audience impressions (+0.011m). The song also has 1.237 million weekly audience impressions from its #25 rank on Adult Contemporary (151 weekly spins, +23 today).

Altogether, Haley’s song has 5.07 million weekly audience impressions at radio. The Extra Gum commercial that features her vocals has 18,494,182 views. For comparison, that is more views than Gwen Stefani has on her recent music video for “Used to Love You” (13,232,947).

Why Ariana Grande’s “Focus” is Dropping Like a Rock at Radio, Even as YouTube Streams Remain Impressive

Do you think “Focus” is, should be, or should have been a hit?

With just over 30 million weekly audience impressions (30.482m, -4.056 m), Ariana Grande’s “Focus” is the fastest-falling song in terms of overall audience impressions today, beating out Dan + Shay’s “Nothin’ Like You,” which shed 3.849 million audience impressions. In fact, it is the fastest-moving song altogether, as Justin Bieber’s current smash, “Sorry,” only gained 3.644 million audience impressions today.

Why is “Focus” falling so quickly? 

According to Mediabase Callout Research, pop audiences just don’t like the song. In the most recent survey, “Focus” was rated positively by only 43.5% of listeners, as compared to 38.4% who disliked it. Her net positive score of +5.1% was the worst of all songs surveyed (which included all 32 currently charting pop songs that had audience familiarity of at least 60%). In fact, every other song had a net positive score of at least +17%. Also, “Focus” was listed as a favorite by only 9.5% of listeners, also the worst showing.

So, if Ariana’s song is so terrible, then why is it weird that it is falling so fast?

1) Callout numbers are improving.

Interestingly, the callout figures are actually an improvement over earlier callout reports, in which Ariana’s net positive score was approximately +0%. Why would Ariana’s callout numbers be improving just as radio starts abandoning her song?

2) Ariana’s performance of “Focus” at the AMA’s was EXTREMELY well-received.

Exhibit A, B, C, D, E, F, G

3) The “Focus” music video is getting tons of streams.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 12.14.42 PM

If everyone hates this song and wants it to die, then why are 4 million people streaming it on YouTube ever day? This is a seriously impressive view-curve, competitive with recent massive hits by Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Drake, and The Weeknd.

Last summer’s smash “Problem,” which is arguably Ariana’s biggest hit to-date, was only getting about 2 million views/day at its peak, and it never went over 3 million views, even as it became one of the ten fastest-selling singles in digital history in its first week.

This song has been out long enough that if it were a complete flop, its YouTube views would be dropping by now. They should have fallen faster, and they shouldn’t be popping back up (except on Saturdays).

4) The song is perfectly structured to be a smash pop hit.

Yes, to some extent, I am expressing my subjective impression of the song. But, I am not alone. When this song was released, radio programmers across the country were dead certain that it was a hit. It was rocketing up the radio charts at a seriously fast pace. Only Adele’s “Hello” was rising faster (for a while). Then, when callout finally issued its first report, and it turned out audiences weren’t entirely thrilled by the song, its progression stopped dead, after rocketing halfway up the chart. Radio programmers were confused, so they did nothing. The song was an obvious hit, but it was disliked by a huge number of people. So, they left the song at current levels, and slowly decided to start dropping it off their playlists.

Listen to last summer’s “Problem,” and then listen to “Focus.” Then tell me exactly why one song is beloved by audiences, and the other passionately hated. You can’t. The only salient difference between them is that one came out in 2014, before Ariana Grande’s last album became a massive success.

5) The music video for “Focus” is seriously emaculate.

Exhibit A: Ariana, wearing freaking amazing contact lenses in “Focus!”

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.39.30 PM

Exhibit B: This is what she looks like when nobody is watching…

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.41.34 PM

Exhibit C: “Who me?”

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.41.16 PM

Exhibit D: Selfie time!

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.40.27 PM

Exhibit E: Sleek profile shot.

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.35.12 PM

Exhibit F: You’re totes jelly of mah nails bi-otch.

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.34.35 PM

Exhibit G: Test tube baby.

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.35.58 PM

Exhibit H: Wink!

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.42.28 PM

Exhibit I: Just kicking it with mah tube friends (sisters?).

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.36.36 PM


Maybe the problem is simply a combination of simple and non-simple factors. Audiences loved “Problem,” because it was fresh and new. If it sounds like “Problem: Part 2,” then it is probably not going to excite people.

After a long string of hits from Ariana, radio programmers saw a song that preserved the best qualities of the biggest of the hits, and they immediately started putting it on heavy rotation. But audiences almost never love a song instantly. Audiences like songs that they know. That is why songs almost never debut in the top ten on radio songs. Even the biggest hits by the biggest artists in history take several weeks before they are allowed to reach #1 at radio. Radio programmers took a song that audiences were naturally inclined to be disenchanted with, and they committed the most grievous sin of all: they overplayed it too soon.

The song is still a solid one. The music video is captivating, and Ariana has a massive fan base. 40% of people can strongly dislike the song, and it will still get massive YouTube streams if 40% of people want to watch it on YouTube.

But, radio programmers thrive on not offending people. Radio doesn’t like risks. Radio programmers try to play music that is least objectionable, so that everyone can passively listen to it on their way to work. 40% dislike of a song is a big problem for radio, and that is why it is currently collapsing at such a rapid clip.

Do you think “Focus” is, should be, or should have been a hit?

— More —

The iTunes and Spotify Chart Positions of Every Ariana Grande Song in Every Country in the World 12/15/15 11:04AM Eastern. 


Santa Tell Me

One Last Time

Boys Like You

Break Free

Love Me Harder

Bang Bang


Almost Is Never Enough

Last Christmas

All My Love

E più ti penso

The Way


Baby I

Santa Baby

My Everything


Gwen Stefani has a Hit

I hate to say “I told you so,” but… Who am I kidding? I LOVE saying that!

One month ago, on October 21st, I predicted after a single day of release that Gwen Stefani had a hit on her hands. At that point in time, I was looking at stronger than expected iTunes sales and YouTube streams (along with some gut instinct based on the song). I left a caveat, at the time, that more data would be needed to confirm a trajectory for Gwen’s single. Today, I announce that it has become clear in the data that Gwen Stefani does indeed have another hit on her hands.

Predicted peak on the Billboard Hot 100: #6-#22. Peak-to-date: #84.


The most important statistic is radio airplay over time. Gwen has experienced accelerating radio airplay over time, and her song is now the fifth fastest growing on U.S. radio. It is the fourth fastest-growing single on Pop radio, and the third fastest grower on Adult Pop.

“Used to Love You” leapt 14 positions on the big radio chart today #135-#121, with a weekly audience impression gain of 2.341 million audience impressions, for a total of 15.203 million audience impressions over the past week.


“Used to Love You” popped back onto the (100-position) U.S. iTunes chart in the past 24 hours, and currently sits at #84. The rapidly increasing radio airplay is starting to drive increased sales.

After its initial sales bump, “Used to Love You” had a weak start at radio and had been sloughing off sales like a snake shedding skin. For the week ending 11/12, it only sold about 11,000 copies. Expect sales to reverse course and accelerate starting this week.


“Used to Love You” is not charting on Spotify yet. International YouTube streams are stable at around 100,000/day. At the rate of its increase at radio, however, expect both of these stats to change for the better in coming weeks.

Why is this song going to be a hit?

I think the #1 reason that Gwen is finding success with her comeback right now is because she is caught in a positive media spiral. The media is reporting on her new relationship with Blake Shelton, and her new single/music video came across as genuine. People may not want to see new music that sounds like Gwen Stefani circa 1998 or 2003, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be interested in anything Gwen Stefani creates. She took an excellent approach by opening up her emotions and searching for something real. She stripped away the pomp and circumstance that typically accompanies a Gwen Stefani music video, and left the spotlight exactly where it should have been: on a pretty decent song.

The song itself has an aura of uniqueness, addressing an emotional issue in a way that is different from what we are used to. It doesn’t sound like some song from the 80s dusted off and pulled into a new setting of background music.

Finally, I just wouldn’t underestimate Gwen Stefani as a general rule. She is one of the rarified handful of artists that has managed to generate numerous hits over a substantial period of time (through the 1990s and the early 2000s). The primary reason she hasn’t had a hit since 2007 is that she hasn’t been releasing singles really since then. The fact that her last top 40 hit was a #2 hit implies that she dropped out of the music industry at HER peak, rather than at a time when she was already on a downward trajectory.

Should Gwen turn “Used to Love You” into a new series of legitimate hits in the coming years, then she will truly have reached rarified music industry air, because she will have been a real force in three separate decades. Very few artists remain capable of generating serious hits decades after they first make it big.

So, kudos to Gwen Stefani, and we’ll just have to keep staring at the numbers to ensure a solid prediction of her future performance.

Watch “Used to Love You” here, and take a peak at its (admittedly still weak) global iTunes chart positions below:

Used to Love You

Hollaback Girl

Baby Don’t Lie


Spark the Fire