Every generation has its own musical heroes. These artists have huge fan followings, sell millions of records, and help define the sound of each generation. And while the popularity of musicians is constantly shifting, those who reach the top often achieve an enduring status as a cultural icon.
It’s not only popular music that has changed over the years, but also the industry itself. For musicians, fame was once measured by record and concert ticket sales as well as chart positions of their singles and albums on Billboard, the bible of music information and data.
With the advent of online media and streaming services, the distribution of music has changed dramatically, as has the way fans interact with their favorite musicians. Today’s newest stars are active on social media and other digital platforms. These are the year’s youngest pop stars.
24/7 Tempo used modern measures to determine the most famous musician born each year since 1930. We created an index based on Wikipedia page views, Spotify listeners, and Billboard chart performance.
The most famous artists by these measures who were active in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s were not necessarily the most popular musicians of their day. Tastes change, and the fame of many of the most popular artists in the mid-20th century did not last. For example, many artists who once had chart-topping hits have relatively few Spotify listeners today.
Yet others remain hugely popular despite the age of their music. Elvis “the King” Presley is one such example. His most popular songs were released more than 60 years ago yet remain beloved by music fans. These are the most popular Elvis Presley songs.
To determine the most famous musician born each year since 1930, 24/7 Tempo constructed an index based on Wikipedia page views, Spotify followers, and Billboard chart performance. We reviewed 818 musicians listed as among the most popular by birth year by celebrity profile aggregation website Famous Birthdays. The Wikipedia page view metric consists of annual page views over the period from Oct. 1, 2018 to Oct. 1, 2019. Total Spotify followers was also included in the index. For artists who have both been in a band or multiple bands as well as recorded as a solo artist, the career stage with the most monthly Spotify listeners is included in the index. Also included in the index is the total number of weeks each artist spent on the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200 charts going back to 1960. Due to these constraints, commercial success of artists prior to 1960 may have been overlooked. For artists who had greater chart success with their bands than with their solo work – such as John Lennon – we considered the band only when looking at Billboard performance.
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