There’s one of them at every winter holiday gathering. “Happy capitalist exploitation day!” they’ll sarcastically intone, or maybe just cheerfully snark, “Happy buy people stuff month.” Yes, there is always someone ready to ruin your holiday cheer with their bold, no-holds-barred ability to point out that these yearly rituals involve purchasing gifts, and that means participating in the exchange of money for goods and/or services. While they are fearlessly drawing attention to the fact that the holiday involves doing the same thing you do every other day—buy stuff, only in this case you do it to be nice to others, you monster—you’re presumably (hopefully) on your third whiskey-infused egg nog.
But if your supercilious friend really wanted to single out someone profiting off the collective good vibes of the season, they would turn their attention to Mariah Carey. In a new study, The Economist decided to look at the streaming numbers for Christmas music on Spotify, studying the amount of it played in the two months leading up to Christmas 2016, across 35 countries and every U.S. state, in order to map differences in listening habits. And while there’s a few obvious conclusions to be drawn—more on that in a moment—the biggest takeaway is that Carey is still taking her hastily penned Christmas song to the bank, year after year.
According to the data, the 13 most popular Christmas pop songs have been streamed approximately 1 billion times. And the most popular of them all, Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” is alone responsible for 210 million of those streams—or more than one-fifth of that total amount. Even considering the absolute pittance artists receive for streaming royalties, that adds up to... well, we’re no mathematicians, but let’s just go ahead and speculate that, with her proceeds from this one song, Mariah Carey could afford to keep dining on Fabergé eggs for breakfast for the foreseeable future.
Among the other findings from the study, everything was mostly as you’d expect. Countries (and states) with fewer daylight hours, more precipitation (snowfall especially is an indicator of increased Christmas music listening habits), and greater religious beliefs tended to be the geographic locations that listened to the most Christmas tunes. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess, though the study foolishly doesn’t distinguish between people streaming good stuff like Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and dreck like “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.” It does, however, suggest Carey herself might want to pray for some serious snowstorms: Having roughly 20 percent fewer snow days in November and December would reduce her royalties from the hit by approximately $10,000.