1 Billion Streams for U2’s “With or Without You” on Spotify

Original Story by Tim C. / @wtshnn (2024-03-15)

Earlier today, March 15, 2024, “With or Without You” surpassed 1 billion streams on Spotify an accomplishment that puts U2 in yet another small club of artists.

Spotify is an audio streaming service that has been around since 2006 and is accessible in 156 markets. All of U2’s major studio albums are available for streaming as well as dozens of singles and special releases.

U2 is currently ranked #282 in the world on Spotify. They have 11.8 million followers and have 21.8 million monthly listeners.

Back in 2016 I did an in-depth review of U2’s streaming numbers for U2Songs and I provided this explanation of the methodology used to determine play counts.

First and foremost; this is nowhere even near scientific or exhaustive. The data is current to March 14, 2024, and became outdated minutes later. Spotify does not reveal at what point a track is considered played as such it is unknown if each count equals a song played in its entirety from start to finish or if it includes partial plays.

There are several issues when looking at tracks found on multiple albums as they are sometimes counted as the same and sometimes differently. The original studio recording of “With or Without You” appears on seven different albums on Spotify; The Joshua Tree, The Joshua Tree Super Deluxe, The Joshua Tree Deluxe Remastered, The Best of 1980-1990, The Best of 1980-1990/B-Sides, U218 Singles, U218 Singles Deluxe Version and the play count for each of these instances is the same so that it is impossible to identify which album the track was played from.

Different versions of the same song are sometimes considered the same and show an identical play count, an example would be the two versions of “The Sweetest Thing” found on the Best of 1980-1990/B-Sides. Despite being two distinct versions they have the same play count (138,363,628).

Tracks from Songs of Surrender are separated from their original versions and have their own separate play counts.

Additionally, we cannot tell if someone searched for an album or a specific song. We are also unable to differentiate if a song was played as part of a public playlist. If someone were to search within Spotify for just “Fortunate Son” they may have been looking for the Creedence Clearwater Revival song and stumbled upon the U2 cover available on the “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” single.

There is also an issue when comparing songs that have slight variations such as a Radio edit or a Single version. For example, “New Year’s Day” appears on several different albums with several variations that aren’t live versions or remixes. So there are different counts for versions that appear on the different releases of War, Best of, and U218 as such the counts below will not combine those numbers.

“The Wanderer” and “When Love Comes to Town” also show the inconsistency in Spotify’s counting as versions of the “The Wanderer” that appear on Johnny Cash albums have a different play count than the ones that appear on U2 albums. “When Love Comes to Town”, however, shows the same play count regardless of if it is on a U2 album or a B.B. King release.

Finally, we are unable to tell you how much revenue U2 have earned from these streams. There are numerous other articles out there discussing the inconsistent payment models associated with Spotify.

What’s the Point?

While the limitations and issues listed above might make this article seem without merit there is interesting information that can be derived from the data. For starters it can give concrete evidence as to the popularity of certain U2 songs. Few people would be surprised to see that “With or Without You” is the highest ranked U2 song but how many people would have guessed that “Sweetest Thing” would rank in at #8 of most played tracks? Songs of Innocence has more tracks streamed than How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Interested in the least played song (excluding bonus tracks)? “Miracle Drug” from Songs of Surrender is the lowest played U2 album track, with only 493,531 streams.

Additionally, this data can help draw comparisons between U2’s popularity to that of other artists and the use of streaming by fans. The most streamed song on Spotify by any artist is “Blinding Lights” by The Weekend with just over 4 billion streams. All total there are over 500 songs on Spotify that have more than a billion streams.

How to Obtain the Data

When viewing an artist’s main page on Spotify there is a section that contains ten songs that are either their most streamed, trending, or their recent releases. This list shows the play count numbers for those particular songs.

To go beyond that requires the use of a computer as it does not appear to be possible to view further play counts on mobile devices. When looking at an album on a computer the play count of each song is displayed between the track title and the song’s duration time.

“With or Without You” was released on the Joshua Tree in 1987, here are some other songs from that year that have cracked a billion streams.

  • Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” has 1.1 billion.
  • Guns And Roses’ album Appetite for Destruction has three songs, “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Paradise City”, and “Sweet Child O’Mine”, that have more than a billion streams.
  • Bon Jovi has two songs from 1987 with a billion streams each; “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Living On A Prayer”.

The top ten most streamed U2 songs on Spotify are;

10. “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” – All That You Can’t Leave Behind
With 128,486,857 streams Stuck is the first of two ATYCLB songs to appear in the top ten.
9. “Vertigo” – How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
The leadoff single from HTDAAB shows its popularity with 134,991,244 streams.
8. “The Sweetest Thing” – Best of 1980-1990
The 1998 remake of the Joshua Tree era single hits 138,363,628 putting it in the top ten.
7. “Where The Streets Have No Name” – The Joshua Tree
The quintessential live U2 song also gets a lot of attention on Spotify with 191,944,075 streams.
6. “Pride (In The Name of Love)” – The Unforgettable Fire
The first entry on this list to top 250 million streams “Pride” shows its long-term popularity with 260,210,920 streams.
5. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” – War
The oldest U2 song in the top 10 “SBS” has 389,599,442 streams.
4. “Beautiful Day” – All That You Can’t Leave Behind
The second song from ATYCLB “Beautiful Day’s” streams are abloom with 542,348,515 plays.
3. “One” – Achtung Baby
The masterpiece that is “One” proves its relevance 32 years later with 556,574,180 streams.
2. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” – The Joshua Tree
An incredibly good showing by “ISHFWILF” puts it in second place of all U2 tracks with 676,266,010 streams.
1. “With or Without You” – The Joshua Tree
The first single from The Joshua Tree proves itself to be the most popular U2 song with over a billion streams, currently 1,000,081,432

U2’s first album is also the oldest on Spotify and is listed under two versions; Remastered and Deluxe Remastered. With 51,623,314 million plays it would probably come as no surprise that “I Will Follow” is the top track off U2’s debut album

Total Album Song Plays 79,684,643
Bonus Material Plays 7,030,984
Total Plays 86,715,627
Album Rank # 12/15

October is available for streaming on Spotify from one of two formats; Remastered and Deluxe Edition Remastered. October is the lowest streamed studio album in the U2 catalog. “October” the song sits at 9,995,270 streams. The song, “Gloria”, comes in at second place on plays with 8,415,026.

Album Plays 30,616,568
Bonus Material Plays 8,760,129
Total Plays 39,376,697
Rank # 15/15

Like the preceding two albums, War is available in both Remastered and Deluxe Edition Remastered. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” blows the rest of the tracks away with total plays of 389,599,442 million. Something of interest for War is that “New Years Day,” the album version, has 26,377,875 streams, while the Best of 1980-1990’s version has 69,081,616 streams. The 389 million plays of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” puts it in fifth place for U2 songs on Spotify.

Album Plays 448,918,916
Bonus Material Plays 32,215,160
Total Plays 481,134,076
Rank # 4/15

The Unforgettable Fire
When we last visited Spotify counts in 2016 there were two different Unforgettable Fire albums available; Remastered or Deluxe Edition Remastered. Today only the Remastered version remains. “Pride (In the Name of Love)” is the top track with 260,210,920 plays. “Pride” sits in the #6 spot for most played U2 song.

Album Plays 350,719,033
Bonus Material Plays DNA
Total Plays 350,719,033
Rank # 6/15

The Joshua Tree
The Joshua Tree is available in three versions: Original, Deluxe and Super Deluxe Edition. The combined tracks of The Joshua Tree make it the most listened to album in the entire U2 catalog. “With or Without You” has 1,000,081,432 streams. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” comes in with a respectable 676 million streams placing it as the second most played U2 song.

Album Plays 2,054,406,079
Bonus Material Plays 168,755,383
Total Plays 2,274,753,459
Rank # 1/15

Rattle & Hum
U2’s hybrid Studio/Live album comes in at 365 million plays of the tracks off the album (if “Freedom for my People” is removed that numbers drops to 363 million plays). “Desire” is the top song on the album with 77,420,237 plays second place is very close with 76,339,721 million plays of “Angel of Harlem”. “All I Want Is You” is in third at 75,673,303. Jimi Hendrix’ version of “The Star Spangled Banner” was once available on this record but has since been removed.

Album Plays 363,303,638
Bonus Material Plays DNA
Total Plays 363,303,638
Rank 9/15

Achtung Baby
There are four versions of Achtung Baby available; original 1991 release, the 20th Anniversary two-disc Deluxe version released in 2011, and two different versions of the 30th Anniversary album released in 2021. The collective track count for the first disc is 832 million. “One” is the clear winner of play count with 556,574,180 which puts it in third place for most listened to U2. “Mysterious Ways” is second on the album with 84,566,577. Somewhat surprising is that “Until The End Of The World” is third with 31,822,785 streams.

Album Plays 832,212,086
Bonus Material Plays 58,438,580
Total Plays 890,650,666
Rank # 3/15

Zooropa is only available in one version on Spotify. “Stay (Faraway, So Close)” is the highest ranked track with 69,120,536 streams.

Album Plays 132,659,827
Bonus Material Plays DNA
Total Plays 132,659,827
Rank # 10/15

When we wrote our first Spotify piece in 2016, Pop was missing four songs from the track listing in the United States; “Discotheque”, “Last Night on Earth”, “The Playboy Mansion”, and “Wake Up Dead Man”. The best guess at the time as to the lack of availability on those tracks was that licensing rights of the samples used in these songs prevented them from being streamed. Since 2016 those missing songs are now available. “Staring at The Sun” is the top track with 24,551,557 streams.

Album Plays 24,551,557
Bonus Material Plays DNA
Total Plays 24,551,557
Rank # 13/15

All That You Can’t Leave Behind
In 2020 the 20th Anniversary/Super Deluxe Remastered version of ATYCLB joined the original album version on Spotify. “Beautiful Day” is the top track with 542,348,515 streams in 2016 it was the second most streamed U2 song on Spotify but today has dropped to the fourth.

Album Plays 861,645,416
Bonus Material Plays DNA
Total Plays 1,717,291
Rank # 2/15

How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
With only one version available for streaming How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb has 297 million streams of all the tracks on the album. “Vertigo” is the top track with 134,991,244 plays which earns it the #9 spot for most played U2 song.

Album Plays 297,710,037
Bonus Material Plays DNA
Total Plays 297,710,037
Rank # 8/15

No Line On The Horizon
Available in only one format, No Line on the Horizon has 121 million song streams. The most played song is “Magnificent” with 40,765,528.

Album Plays 121,232,940
Bonus Material Plays DNA
Total Plays 121,232,940
Rank # 11/15

Songs of Innocence
Available in two formats Songs of Innocence does well for itself on Spotify considering every Apple user has had it on their phone for free since 2014. “Every Breaking Wave” takes the most frequently played song with 85,215,005. When the additional tracks available on the Deluxe Edition are added in the total plays for the album rises to 367 million song streams.

Album Plays 326,530,382
Bonus Material Plays 41,224,554
Total Plays 367,754,936
Rank # 7/15

Songs of Experience
The first album added since we last evaluated Spotify numbers Songs of Experience has done well with 271 million streams. The version on Spotify includes the so-called bonus tracks of “Ordinary Love Extraordinary Mix” “Book Of Your Heart”, “Lights of Home (St Peter’s String Version)”, and “You’re the Best Thing About Me (U2 Vs. Kygo)”. The album version of “You’re The Best Thing About Me” is the top performer on the album with 59,352,080 plays and oddly enough the U2 Vs. Kygo remix version is second with 33,695,141 streams.

Album Plays 271,987,771
Bonus Material Plays 76,210,900
Total Plays 348,198,671
Rank # 5/15

Songs of Surrender
The most recently added album is days away from its one-year anniversary. With 40 tracks this album featuring refreshed versions of previous U2 albums has done well for itself. “One” is the top track with 3,544,363 streams. Second place is an unexpected entrant with “Invisible” clocking 3,531,757 streams.

Album Plays 55,985,266
Bonus Material Plays DNA
Total Plays 55,985,266
Rank # 14/15

“Atomic City”
While not an album it is important to mention the most recent U2 release, “Atomic City” has a very respectable 12,704,346 million streams. For a song that has only been out for less than six months this is an indication that U2’s choice to record and release a new song in conjunction with the shows at Sphere Las Vegas was a wise one.

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