The rise and rise of the Billion Club: the list of YouTube videos with over one billion views

A million views isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion views. 

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The Billion Club was once a very exclusive institution. In 2012, it had only a single member; in 2014 it had extended its membership to two. In the three months between June and October 2015 the number had shot up from two to 10: the elite few in question including Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift. As of October 2017, there are over eighty members of the Billion Club, and it’s getting easier to join every day.

A million views isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion views. Yes, the number of videos reaching a billion views on YouTube is growing every day. Like most modern phenomena, the Billion Club begins with a South Korean rapper in sunglasses and a tuxedo dancing the horse trot at alarming speed. Psy’s “Gangnam Style” was famously the first every video to reach a billion views on the video sharing platform all the way back in 2012, and wasn’t followed by Justin Bieber’s “Baby” until 2014.

In 2015, eight more videos joined, including two videos from Katy Perry (“Dark Horse” and “Roar”) and Taylor Swift (“Blank Space” and “Shake It Off”), as well as hits from Enrique Iglesias (“Bailando”) Megan Trainor (“All About That Bass”), Mark Ronson (“Uptown Funk” ft. Bruno Mars) and Wiz Khalifa (“See You Again” ft. Charlie Puth). As of this week, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” became the 81st video to join the Billion Club.

The vast majority of videos in the club are pop hits – from Ed Sheeran to Adele. The most popular artists are Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, with four videos each, closely followed by Taylor Swift, Calvin Harris, Ariana Grande and Shakira with three. But there are some strange exceptions. The Russian children’s cartoon Masha and The Bear has two episodes on YouTube with over a billion views (the 6th and 93rd most popular videos on the site of all time), a version of “Wheels on The Bus” has nearly two billion views, while nursery rhyme posted by an Indian channel, called “Johny Johny Yes Papa”, has 1.2 billion.

As YouTube videos with views in the hundreds of millions grow exponentially, its getting easier and easier for big pop hits to join the club. Luis Fonsi's “Despacito” reached one billion views in record time and also became the first video to hit the two and three billion mark. This might seem inevitable, but it demonstrates that despite increased competition, YouTube remains a major player when it comes to what is essentially music streaming.

The site announced this summer that it has more than 1.5 billion monthly logged-in users watching an average of one hour per day of mobile video – far more than services like Spotify or Apple Music. Information is Beautiful recently claimed that YouTube pays $0.0006 per view, so a billion views on YouTube could only earn an artist $600,000 –  which perhaps seems worryingly low considering YouTube might be the biggest music streaming platform in the world. But as music videos continue to break records with higher and higher numbers of views, the goalposts, inevitably shift.

The Billion Club might not be as cool as it once was, with its ever more lax door policy. So what are the new records for artists to break on YouTube? The Two Billion Club now has 16 members; while only two artists – Luis Fonsi and Wiz Khalifa – can claim to be in the Three Billion Club. In 2017, a billion views isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Three billion views.

Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman.

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