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The Pogues could earn £500,000 in Fairytale of New York royalties this year as fans rally to make it the Christmas Number One after Shane MacGowan’s death


Fans are calling for The Fairytale of New York to become the Christmas Number One after Shane MacGowan’s death – an achievement that could earn The Pogues £500,000 in royalties.

The classic festive hit entered the UK Top 20 this week, with chart bosses saying it’s a ‘genuine contender’ for the Number One spot following the tragic death of frontman Shane MacGowan.

Fans, including famous faces like Piers Morgan, are calling for the song to become the Christmas number one for the first time ever in the memory of MacGowan, who died at the age of 65.

Currently, the song is lagging behind other classics like Wham!’s Last Christmas and Mariah Carey‘s All I Want for Christmas is You, but chart bosses say the song shouldn’t be ruled out as a contender just yet.

The singer’s death kick-started a renewed campaign to get The Fairytale of New York to number one for the first time.

Despite regularly topping polls naming it as the best Christmas song ever written, it has never made it to number one. It was beaten to the top spot in the year of its release, 1987, by the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of Always On My Mind.

It’s something that fans hope to rectify in McGowan’s memory, as well as to honour Kirsty MacColl, who was killed in a speedboat accident in 2000.

And music copyright lawyer Brad Banias said the song could earn The Pogues an impressive £500,000 in royalties if it snags the top spot this season.

But despite this estimated soar in royalties, it would still be less than those estimated for festive icon Mariah Carey.

Kirsty MacColl and Shane MacGowan duetted The Fairytale of New York

Kirsty MacColl and Shane MacGowan duetted The Fairytale of New York

Pictured: A scene from the official music video for the song which was released in 1987

Pictured: A scene from the official music video for the song which was released in 1987

MacGowan, 65, died after an eight-year battle with a brain condition, sparking an outpouring of tributes from fans and public figures

MacGowan, 65, died after an eight-year battle with a brain condition, sparking an outpouring of tributes from fans and public figures

The Irish band’s duet with Kirsty MacColl is at number 18 in this week’s Official UK Top 40, compiled by Official Charts, up 35 places from number 53. It had been at number 23 in the official midweek update.

MacGowan, 65, died after an eight-year battle with a brain condition, sparking an outpouring of tributes from fans and public figures 

As the nation mourns MacGowan, it is estimated this year’s earnings from the popular festive song could be more than doubled. 

Music copyright lawyer Brad Banias put the annual royalties for the hit at over £200,000 from being played on the radio and streaming deals.

Mr Banias said experts estimate this year could see royalties ‘exceeding £500,000’ if it achieves the coveted Number One spot this season.

He told The Metro: ‘If it finally hits number one, additional publicity and 2023 longevity would further increase revenue. 

‘I’d expect a 10-20 per cent royalty rate split between the band, songwriters MacGowan/Finer and Kirsty MacColl’s estate.’

The Fairytale of New York is the number one most purchased song on iTunes in the UK and the second most streamed on Apple Music.

Spotify’s official Charts data shows the song was the 23rd most played in the UK on November 29 – the day before MacGowan passed away.

Pictured: Kirsty MacColl and Shame MacGowan in festive gear and inflatable Santa in 1987

Pictured: Kirsty MacColl and Shame MacGowan in festive gear and inflatable Santa in 1987

Fairytale of New York was released in 1987 and reached number two in the Christmas single charts, beaten to the top spot by the Pet Shop Boys

Fairytale of New York was released in 1987 and reached number two in the Christmas single charts, beaten to the top spot by the Pet Shop Boys

MacGowan was pictured on stage with The Pogues as the band performed at the Barclaycard British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park in 2014

MacGowan was pictured on stage with The Pogues as the band performed at the Barclaycard British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park in 2014

Piers Morgan is leading calls for the single to take the Christmas number one spot

Piers Morgan is leading calls for the single to take the Christmas number one spot

Streams have since more than doubled and the song was the sixth most listened-to in the UK on the day of MacGowan’s death.

Fairytale of New York was released in 1987 and reached number two in the Christmas single charts, beaten to the top spot by the Pet Shop Boys.

It has also remained in the UK’s most played songs on Spotify for 19 days in a row – a streak it is unlikely to break before December 25.

Martin Talbot, CEO of the sales-tracking body, said: ‘The terribly sad news about Shane MacGowan’s death will hit hard all lovers of his music, as well as the fans of Fairytale Of New York, which is consistently voted one of the UK public’s favourite Christmas songs – and which has become a festive staple since the advent of the digital era made it available to download and stream.

‘As usual, it was already heading back into the Official Singles Chart Top 40 this week and, while it is currently too early to give an indication of the scale of the streaming surge, we would very much expect it to rise back into the Top 20 over the coming days, perhaps even higher.

‘It is a genuine contender for this year’s Christmas Number 1 – a chart position which this classic has never previously reached. What a fitting tribute to Shane that would be.’ 

News of his death was announced in a post on Instagram by his wife, Victoria Mary Clarke

News of his death was announced in a post on Instagram by his wife, Victoria Mary Clarke

McGowan at his favourite London pub in Islington, 1994

McGowan at his favourite London pub in Islington, 1994

But despite this estimated soar in royalties, it would still be less than those estimated for festive icon Mariah Carey (pictured at the 2023 Billboard Music Awards this year)

But despite this estimated soar in royalties, it would still be less than those estimated for festive icon Mariah Carey (pictured at the 2023 Billboard Music Awards this year)

UK CHRISTMAS NUMBER ONES 

What was the number one song in the UK on Christmas Day between 2012 and 2022?

2012 He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother by The Justice Collective

2013 Skyscraper by Sam Bailey (X Factor)

2014 Something I Need by Ben Haenow (X Factor)

2015 A Bridge Over You by The Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir

2016 Rockabye by Clean Bandit 

2017 Perfect by Ed Sheeran

2018 We Built This City by LadBaby

2019 I Love Sausage Rolls by LadBaby

2020 Don’t Stop Me Eatin’ by LadBaby

2021 Sausage Rolls For Everyone by LadBaby ft. Ed Sheeran and Elton John

2022 Food Aid by LadBaby

Source: OfficialCharts.com

Ladbrokes has given odds of 1/4 on The Pogues, with Wham!’s Last Christmas the next-closest bet with odds of 6/1. Earlier in November, it was offering odds of 6/4.

Coral, meanwhile, is offering the same odds of 1/4, against 5/1 on Wham’s classic. It had previously offered 5/4 on the single before McGowan’s passing.

Spokesperson John Hill said: ‘Punters think there is going to be a wave of support behind The Pogues landing the Christmas number one single this year following the sad passing of Shane MacGowan.

We make Fairytale of New York odds-on to top the official singles charts on Christmas Day, 36 years after it was released.’

Betfair said it has ‘significantly shorted’ its odds following Thursday’s news. It now offers slightly slimmer odds, 4/11, on the single topping the charts.

Spokesperson Sam Ramsbottom said: ‘The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York is always a firm favourite with punters when it comes to Xmas number one.

‘Following today’s tragic news about the passing of their singer, Shane MacGowan, the odds have significantly shortened to 4/11 and it’s hard to see anything else topping the charts. It would certainly be a fitting tribute.’

The Christmas number one for 2023 will be named on the last Friday before Christmas, December 22, decided by downloads and streams from midnight on December 15 to 11.59pm on December 21. Streams and downloads prior to that date are not counted. 



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