10 popular musicians with epic histories on the Billboard charts
Last Updated on September 19, 2022 by Zoi Walker
One hundred popular musicians have been named the Greatest Artists of All Time by Billboard—and yet, “great” looks different from artist to artist depending on their chart history, career longevity, and success in the streaming age.
Do all the greats have decades-long careers? Do they have to keep charting on the Hot 100 to prove their success? Or does the democratic model of internet streaming services change who’s considered a popular musician?
We wanted to find out, so we compiled Billboard data on popular musicians and songs through the ages, then sliced and diced the data with streaming metrics. Check out what we found about the lengthy careers—and current popularity—of some of the most successful artists of all time.
To examine the longevity of popular musicians, we started with Billboard’s top 10 Greatest of All Time Artists and found out how many of their songs charted on the Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Songs. Billboard uses sales figures, radio airplay, and streaming data to compile these charts.
Next, we tracked (1) how often songs by these top 10 artists appeared on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 between June 1962 and June 2022 and (2) the positions each song attained. We then averaged the number of weeks each song charted and the positions they achieved on the Hot 100.
Lastly, to get a better idea of popularity in the digital age, we isolated streaming metrics to see how each artist’s Spotify and YouTube subscribers compare to their Billboard rankings over the last 60 years.
We gathered the data for this report in June 2022.
Longevity and current success of Billboard top 10 artists
- Elton John is the longest-charting artist on Billboard’s Greatest of All Time Artists list, with approximately 50 years charting on the Billboard Hot 100.
- John’s first charting song, “Rocket Man” (1972), peaked at #20 on the Billboard Hot 100. Since then, he’s released 31 albums and sold over 300 million records worldwide.
- Elton John still dominates the charts in 2022. His song with Dua Lipa, “Cold Heart (PNAU Remix)” has spent 39 weeks on the Hot 100 with a peak ranking at #7.
- Four of the top 10 Billboard Greatest of All Time Artists made their Billboard Hot 100 debuts in 1964: the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Barbra Streisand, and Stevie Wonder.
- Of this group, Stevie Wonder has the longest tenure on the Billboard Hot 100, with his songs charting about 24 years.
- Only five of the top 10 Billboard artists charted on Billboard’s Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Songs: the Beatles, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder.
- The Beatles hold the highest ranking song on the Greatest of All Time Hot 100 with “Hey Jude” at #13.
- The most recent Greatest Hot 100 song, Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” (2005), ranks at #15.
- Even though the Beatles rank #1 on the Billboard Greatest of All Time Artists, they spent the fewest years with hit songs on the weekly Billboard Hot 100, spanning only about 12 years on the chart.
- According to Spotify, the band recorded together for just over seven years and released 13 albums together.
- The youngest artist to make the 10 Greatest All Time Artists, Taylor Swift, exceeded the Beatles’ time on the weekly Hot 100 charts. She’s been charting hit songs on the Hot 100 for 14 years already.
- Taylor Swift, whose career launched more recently than any other top 10 Billboard artist, dominates the digital space. She has more YouTube subscribers and Spotify monthly listeners than any other top 10 Billboard artist.
- Swift’s most-watched music video on YouTube, “Shake It Off,” has 3.2 billion views.
- “Shake It Off” earned a spot in the 20 most-watched YouTube videos of all time—the only song by a top 10 Billboard artist to earn the honor.
- Even though Swift removed her music from Spotify between 2014 and 2017, that didn’t stop her from becoming the #7 most streamed artist of all time on Spotify, according to Chartmasters.
- Madonna and Stevie Wonder tied for chart longevity. Both spent about 24 years on the weekly Billboard Hot 100.
- After years of licensing negotiations, the Beatles’ music finally published on streaming services in 2015. Since then, fans have streamed their music enough to make the Beatles the #4 Billboard Greatest Artist with the most Spotify monthly listeners.
- Mariah Carey is the best-selling female artist of all time, with more than 200 million albums sold to date. Her songs have ranked higher on the weekly Hot 100 than any other songs by top 10 Billboard artists, with an average peak ranking at #9.
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