A hit single is a recorded song or instrumental released as a single that has become very popular. Although it is sometimes used to describe any widely-played or big-selling song, the term "hit" is usually reserved for a single that has appeared in an official music chart through repeated radio airplay or significant commercial sales.
Historically, before the era of the dominance of recorded music, commercial sheet music sales of individual songs were similarly promoted and tracked as singles and albums are now. For example, in 1894, Edward B. Marks and Joe Stern released "The Little Lost Child", which sold more than a million copies nationwide based mainly on its success as an illustrated song, analogous to today's music videos.
Chart hits 
In the United States and the United Kingdom, a single is usually considered to be a hit when it has reached the official Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100 or the Top 75 of the 'UK Singles Chart' and stayed there for at least one week (the definition used by the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles since the 1970s). It can be argued that reaching at least the top 100 since the Official Charts Company increased the size of the chart on their website on 23 June 2007 can allow a single to be considered a hit due to the increasing singles market size, after chart rules were changed concerning download singles.
A hit single may be described as a "number one hit", a "top 10 hit", a "top 20 hit" or a "top 40 hit", depending on its peak position. In the UK, (where radio play is not included in the official charts) this not completely reflect the song's overall popularity, as the weekly chart position is solely based on a direct comparison with the sales of other singles released at around the same time. It is therefore not uncommon for a single to fail to chart, but to have actually sold more copies than other singles which are regarded as "hits" purely from their higher chart placement during a period of generally low sales.
Sales figures 
In the UK the number of sales required to achieve a hit single steadily declined in line with a general decline in single sales until the early 2000s (decade), but have recovered strongly with the growth in official digital downloads; 2011 was a record year for UK singles sales. Actual figures vary considerably depending on the time of year. In 2012 a number one single usually sold around 100,000 copies per week; sales of around 30,000 were often sufficient to reach the top ten, and a single selling over 6,000 copies could make the top forty.
Hit singles worldwide 
Whether or not a single becomes a hit can depend on geographical location. Musical taste varies considerably and singles which are not hits in their country of origin sometimes become chart topping hits in other parts of the world. For example "Blind To The Groove", released in 1998 by UK band Ultra did not chart in the UK but became a top ten hit in Spain. Nicole Scherzinger is far more popular in the UK, than her native US, scoring a number one single in 2011 ("Don't Hold Your Breath"), in the UK, as well as other hits there, but very little success in the US as a solo artist.
Albums of hit singles 
Collections of hit singles by various artists are often released as compilation albums, such as the Now That's What I Call Music! series. Well known bands and artists also frequently release collections of their most popular singles as Greatest hits albums.
See also 
- Caraman Fotea, Daniela; Nicolau, Cristian (1999). Rock, Pop, Folk Dictionary. Bucharest: Humanitas Publishing House. ISBN 973-28-0910-8.
- Caraman Fotea, p. 229 Missing or empty
- BPI 2011 stats: Market down, album sales fall 5.6% - but digital up 26.6%
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