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Ric Ocasek’s Death Brings Turbo Boost to the Cars’ Sales, Streams and Airplay

"Just What I Needed" was radio's most played song in the two days following Ocasek's death, while video streamers went for "Drive."

For fans of the Cars, relistening to the band’s music was just what they needed in the hours and days following news of band leader Ric Ocasek’s death.

The Cars was the artist with the second-highest overall album sales in the two days following Ocasek’s death, according to BuzzAngle Music, with the Sept. 15-16 long-dormant band coming in behind only the Lumineers, who’d just released a new album the same weekend.

The group had the most song sales during that same period, with 25,000 paid downloads, coming in ahead of Post Malone, Lizzo, Taylor Swift and another recent decedent, Eddie Money. Song sales for the Cars’ catalog rose 14,695% in the 48 hours following his death.

Ironically, the most downloaded song was one that Ocasek didn’t sing: “Drive.” But mourners may have been driven by the fact that the tune is the most overtly sorrowful song in their catalog of otherwise mostly upbeat hits.

There was a similar resonance, perhaps, to at least the title of the song that had the biggest percentage increase in sales (6,654%): “Since You’re Gone.”

Not surprisingly, 88% of the Cars albums bought during the time frame were digital albums, with what few copies were in stock among what few physical retailers still carry CDs quickly selling out. “The Complete Greatest Hits Album by the Cars” was the top seller, followed by the self-titled debut “The Cars,” “Candy-O,” “Heartbeat City” and another hits collection, “Moving in Stereo: The Best of the Cars.”

On the streaming front, BuzzAngle Music reports that there were 1.2 million streams of Cars songs on the day Ocasek died, Sept. 15, a 228% jump. “Drive” topped the Cars’ individual video streams, with 152,000 for the two days — but audio streamers preferred “Just What I Needed,” with 367,000.

The Cars’ catalog had not exactly been dormant prior to Ocasek’s death, since the group has continued to be a staple of classic rock and oldies radio formats. In the week prior to the news, Cars songs had been streamed 5 million times. Since 2014, BuzzAngle said, Cars songs have been streamed 526 million times.

Radio favored “Just What I Needed,” with 4,345 spins in the two days following the death, according to Mediabase. That was a 146% increase, which might sound modest, but it really may speak to how much play the Cars was already getting as a matter of course, even though the band’s last hit was in 1987, shortly before its initial breakup.

In fact, per Mediabase, “Just What I Needed” was the most-played song among all radio formats for Sept. 15-16, closely followed at No. 2 by “You Might Think.”

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