Why Mozart is More Popular than Drake

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Poor, misunderstood, meme-friendly Drake. Even though he’s counted among the “sensitive bros” whom Billboard magazine noted are currently topping the music charts (along with Charlie Puth, Shawn Mendes, Lukas Graham, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, and even a “Sorry”-singing Justin Bieber) he couldn’t quite synch the top spot for CD sales this year.

No, that honor goes to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the classical composer who died at age thirty-five in 1791.

And how did a long-dead musical wunderkind achieve such a feat in 2016? As one website described,

“He doesn’t sing, he doesn’t dance and he’s not on YouTube. He also died over two centuries ago, but none of that has stopped Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from scoring the best-selling CD of 2016 with a disc released just five weeks ago. With a total of 1.25 million copies sold since the end of October . . . Mozart has beaten Drake’s Views, Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo and Beyoncé’s Lemonade. And all of that without doing a single promo tour.”

Of course, this CD sales coup is the result of some creative accounting—especially concerning the large box set of Mozart’s works released this year. As Quartz magazine notes, Mozart’s “1.25 million figure tallied by Billboard technically counts every individual CD sold—and because each of the Mozart box sets contains 200 discs, only about 6,000 people are responsible in total for the composer’s chart-topping success.

Still, there is something pleasingly retro about the idea of Mozart besting not just Drake but also Beyoncé and Kanye. It suggests that the composer’s fans don’t need political posturing or reality television to sustain their interest in the music, and that even in an era of cheap digital music streaming services, they are willing to pay for the privilege of owning that music in permanent, high-quality formats (which, some critics argue, are making a strong comeback against the encroachments of digital technology ). As one reporter noted, “Mozart enthusiasts may still be committed to paying for music. Kanye fans, on the other hand? Not so much.” In other words: quality still counts for something.

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