Christmas Hits: Who’s In It to Win It?

An analysis of Christmas songs in the US Spotify Charts.

Intro.

With Christmas less than a week away, the festive songs are streamed on a year-high all over again. Last week, while listening to Chris Rea’s “Driving Home For Christmas”, I was wondering if listening behavior for Christmas music ever changes. With the new generation Z (born between 1995 and 2012) changing Spotify’s user pie, the popularity of all-time Christmas artists like Mariah Carey and Michael Bublé might be shifting towards younger superstars like Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber.

Visualisation of US Spotify charts. Christmas songs are highlighted in red.

In order to answer this question I turned towards the Spotify charts in the US. I wrote a script in Python 3 (via Jupyter Notebook) that automatically scrapes the daily US charts via the Spotify Charts website. After scraping the charts I was left with a data-set ranging from September 1st 2017 (the oldest publicly available date) until December 10th 2020 (the day I scraped the charts). Track title — Artist — Track URI — Chart Date — Christmas song

In total there were 1,137,100 data-point left to analyze, which left me with a problem… How to visualize all these data-points so one could understand this? I decided to work in Tableau with track name in columns and chart date in rows. Working with weeks (rows) instead of days showed something that made sense, while highlighting Christmas songs with a red color (how appropriate lol). I excluded the year 2020 since it’s hard to make assumptions about a whole year with data that does not cover 365 days.

When looking at the exact number of chart positions from 2017–2019 we get an interesting insight. Bing Crosby is the absolute #1 Christmas artist, when looking at chart positions. Michael Bublé can be considered the runner-up while Mariah Carey completes the overall top 3. But what about the new superstars? Analyzing all artists under 35 showed us two youngsters:

Ariana Grande: #190 chart appearances between 2017 and 2019.

Justin Bieber: #119 chart appearances between 2017 and 2019.

While they aren’t there yet, they are definitely in the race for the years to follow. Ariana Grande saw a massive increase of 1000% in chart appearance while Justin Bieber’s chart appearances have increased with 38% between 2017 and 2019.

How interesting would it be to know which artist is the first go-to to get you in the festive mood :)?

2017: Mariah Carey — All I Want For Christmas Is You. First chart appearance in week 44 (01–11–2017), highest debuting Christmas song.

2018: Mariah Carey — All I Want For Christmas Is You. First chart appearance in week 44 (01–11–2018), highest debuting Christmas song.

2019: Mariah Carey — All I Want For Christmas Is You. First chart appearance in week 44 (01–11–2019), highest debuting Christmas song.

2020: Mariah Carey — All I Want For Christmas Is You. First chart appearance in week 44 (01–11–2020), highest debuting Christmas song. *2020 WK44 data manually extracted*

Mariah Carey remains the queen of Christmas, but the competition for the early birds is heating up…

At last it seemed interesting to see on which day of Christmas the festive mood is the highest.

All in all we can conclude that the day before Christmas is increasingly becoming more popular the recent years and boxing day seems like a bad reminder that Christmas is almost over…

25. | Passionate about music & analytics| Research in music & entertainment consumption