'The Voice' Hits 20 Million Song Downloads

"We would love to have a star, but one way we distinguished ourselves from other shows since day one is we have never made the promise of stardom"
Trae Patton/NBC
'The Voice'

Nearing the end of its seventh season, The Voice can hang a sign that reads more than 20 million sold.

Between its launch in April 2011 and a few days before Thanksgiving, the NBC singing competition show sold more than 20 million downloads on iTunes, a milestone commemorated during Monday’s telecast. The downloads, tallied by iTunes, are all of songs performed on the weekly show and do not include songs released post-competition by winners such as Cassadee Pope, Danielle Bradbery and Tessanne Chin. Republic Records releases all of the music from the show during the competition.

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The Voice, unlike American Idol, has released sales figures since its inception and allowed tracks from the show to appear on the iTunes and Billboard charts. The show hit the 10 million mark in late May 2013, about midway through season four.

From the perspective of Paul Telegdy, president of alternative and late night programming at NBC, the 20 million downloads represent rabid fanaticism for the show and its role in music discovery.

"We argue in the car," Telegdy says of debates with his 11- and 13-year-old daughters, "What's the real measure of success? Digital downloads are the simplest, the easiest to track. We're watching [streaming services] closely, but that's less of interest to me. If one of my daughters said, 'Oh my god, this young emerging artist had 2 million YouTube views and 16 million starts,' I'd say I only want to know how many starts and finishes."

Among other Voice performances that have entered Billboard's Hot Digital Songs chart are Matthew Schuler's version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" (272,000 sold), Bradbery's twist on the Pam Tillis hit "Maybe It Was Memphis" (167,000 sold), the Swon Brothers' harmony-rich remake of Kenny Loggins' "Danny's Song" (158,000 sold) and last season's winner Josh Kaufman, whose take on the Bonnie Raitt hit "I Can't Make You Love Me" got him past the top eight and sold 97,000 copies.

Pope's version of Miranda Lambert's "Over You" remains the biggest seller of the show's tracks, selling 363,000 downloads, according to Nielsen Soundscan. Her take on the Keith Urban hit "Stupid Boy" has sold 202,000 copies.

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"That 20 million emanating from the show doesn't tell the full story," says Telgedy, noting the number of past contestants who have collaborated with one another and are making a living from music. "We would love to have a star, but one way we distinguished ourselves from other shows since day one is we have never made the promise of stardom. Music is not about instant stardom and the stories that get traction these days in the [mainstream] are more about substance and hard work."

The Voice continues to be the No. 1 reality series, pulling in an average of 13.9 million viewers per show, according to Nielsen Media Research.

This article originally appeared on Billboard.com.

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