Snow Patrol anthem crowned most played track of 21st Century

Laura FitzPatrick
Snow Patrol's notorious track Chasing Cars is the most played track of the 21st Century.

Only a handful of bands can revel in the commercial success of one song 13 years following its release, but Snow Patrol has done just that.

Having peaked at number six on the UK Singles Chart and finishing 2006 as the 14th best-selling single of the year, the rock group’s cult release Chasing Cars has exceeded original expectations to become the most played track of the 21st Century.

New figures released today by music licensing company PPL take into account all recordings of music released, whether they are played by radio and television broadcasters, or in public by businesses and organisations across the UK.

Released in June 2006, Chasing Cars reached number six in the UK Official Singles Chart, staying in the top 75 for 94 weeks, a run that hinted at the song’s impending appeal.

The new analysis places the Northern Irish band ahead of the Black Eyed Peas and Pharell Williams for overall plays, whose tracks I’ve Got a Feeling and Happy came second and third respectively.

“'I’ve never been able to figure out entirely why it’s been such a success,” Gary Lightbody, lead singer of Snow Patrol admitted. 

He told the Telegraph: “It is one of the most played songs around the world don't quite know why. It’s simple, it’s heartfelt, it’s honest - these are all things appealing to people and I don't know why.”

Northern Irish Singer Lightbody from Snow Patrol performs on stage in Hyde Park in London Credit: Reuters

Most famously, Snow Patrol’s anthem achieved notoriety after it was featured in the 2006 season two finale of the medical drama Grey's Anatomy. 

In the same year, the producers of ER selected the track for a solemn scene in their own hospital saga.

For Lightbody, it was the former show that changed everything for the band who had only performed in front of crowds of 40 and spent 10 years sleeping in the back of an old van on tour.

“I didn’t know the Grey’s Anatomy but it’s been very good to us so we are fond of it.

“They asked us whether they could use the track six weeks before it was on in America, so we had forgotten. It would have been during the UK bedtime so we went to bed one night and woke up the next morning and Chasing Cars was number one on US iTunes overnight,” he added.

Following that, the track was featured on BBC coverage of Wimbledon, in handfuls of Dancing on Ice skate offs and it even found its way into the 2011 Hollywood film Just Go With It.

Despite the publishing success of their music, the band wouldn’t bank on it if they released the same track today.

“I would say it wouldn't have done as well now. Assuming you can think of it as in a vacuum and whether music like that would even do well anyways, it’s hard to imagine due to the amount of choice and the ways people consume and hear music,” Lightbody said.

The band in 2007 at the height of Chasing Cars' success Credit: Paul Grover

His comments follow a change in the industry's strategy following Ed Sheeran’s digital releases which led to him being named the most-streamed artist in 2017 after Shape of You, the most played song overall that year.

Peter Leathem, Chief Executive Officer at PPL said: “Chasing Cars is a song that has become a popular anthem, securing huge success across radio, in public and especially TV where its huge appeal has led to its use in many programmes.

“These platforms can dramatically extend the life of a record beyond its initial release, and PPL is here to collect the royalties owed to the performers and recording rightsholders of that song, whenever and wherever it is used.”

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