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Flo Rida, Gwen Stefani, Black Eyed Peas and More: Digital Download Landmarks

by Ryan Book   May 3, 2015 14:57 PM EDT

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Five years ago today, the Black Eyed Peas' single "I Gotta Feeling" were confirmed by Nielsen Soundscan as the bestselling song in the history of digital downloads, having become the first song in history to pass the 6 million-download mark. In the five years since, the track has continued to become the first song to break both the 7 million and 8 million-download mark as well, maintaining its role as the most downloaded song ever. It got us thinking however: What songs were the first to pass the respective million marks? Flo Rida, Gwen Stefani and more pitch in to history.

"Hollaback Girl" by Gwen Stefani (2005)

Warning: It will make you feel old to consider the first-ever song to attain platinum status exclusively by way of downloads. That song, of course, is Gwen Stafani's "Hollaback Girl." The reason why it might make you feel old is that it seemingly debuted yesterday, with it's now memorable hook regarding the vocalist and her non-status as a "hollaback girl." That kind of gives perspective as to how far the music downloads market has come in less than a decade: Ten years ago (as of publication), no song had ever sold more than a million copies by way of the format. That was before iPods reached their peak popularity, and now even those are going out of fashion. Now songs are constantly (relatively, of course) going platinum, but "Hollaback Girl" was the first to accomplish the feat. Sales records will accelerate quickly in the listings to come, as will the download sales themselves.

"Bad Day" by Daniel Powter (2005)

Stefani may have been the first to break a million when she broke "Hollaback Girl" during 2005, but a two-million download seller would follow quickly behind. Daniel Powter would demonstrate a sales approach entirely different from his "competitor": While Stefani and "Hollaback" rose rapidly to the top of the charts and then dropped off from there, Powter used a slow-and-steady approach to reach the top. His single was actually released prior to Stefani's that year but it was slower to gain traction (due to the latter's existing status as a member of No Doubt). However, thanks to continuing radio play and then got a huge boost after being used as the elimination music for American Idol beginning during Season 5. Powter himself, who has never cracked the Billboard Hot 100 outside of his no. 1 "Bad Day," eventually apologized to listeners for being inundated by the song everywhere they went. Not your fault sir.

 

"Crank That (Soulja Boy)" by Soulja Boy (2007)

The first million and two-million download sellers came relatively quickly after each other but it took a few more years before a song could reach 3 million downloads. That performer, Soulja Boy, might not have realized it at the time, but he was revolutionizing a strategy in music marketing when his music video for "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" became one of the first viral videos in music history. Everyone from grade-schoolers to college girls loved replicating the rapper's "Crank That" dance and they made sure to download the song so that they wouldn't need to be by a computer when they wanted to dance. The song has continued to build up the singles sales, despite the song going out of fashion several years ago, now having more than 5 million downloads to its name (although, of course, it wasn't the first song to reach the five-million mark).

"Low" by Flo Rida (2007)

Flo Rida is a guy who knows a thing or two about digital singles sales, and perhaps no other performer has done as well as the emcee in terms of download sales. For example, his single "Right Round" has the record for the the best download sales week of all time (selling 636,000 copies during its first week during 2009) and his single "Low" (with T-Pain) is tied with "Uptown Funk" (Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars) for the most weeks at no. 1 on the downloads charts at 13 weeks. Perhaps that record helps to explain how well "Low" did when it was first introduced to the market, becoming the first song to attain 4 million downloads, and eventually the first with 5 million downloads as well. The song would hold the record for most downloaded song ever until 2010, when it was replaced by "I Gotta Feeling."

Recovery by Eminem (2010)

So there aren't really that many landmarks in terms of singles downloads...until a new song passed "I Gotta Feeling" and becomes the first to pass 9 or 10 million...so we decided to do you an extra and inform you the first album to crack a million in download sales as well. Again, dating ourselves, it hasn't been that long since digital albums was even a relevant stat, but expect it to continue as such going forward as physical sales continue to decrease. Eminem became the first performer to sell a million copies of any single album when his 2010 album Recovery reached platinum status by strictly digital means. In terms of album sales, slow and steady wins the digital race. Adele's 21, the bestselling UK album in the millennium thus far, is also the bestselling digital album, having sold more than 3 million copies.

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