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Universal Music dominates IFPI’s artist chart of 2019


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Congratulations to Taylor Swift, who was named yesterday by the IFPI as its global recording artist of 2019. She tops a chart calculated by aggregating streams, digital and physical sales globally, weighted by the value of those respective formats. Swift was joined in the top ten by (in order): Ed Sheeran; Post Malone; Billie Eilish; Queen; Ariana Grande; BTS; Drake; Lady Gaga; and promising Liverpudlian quartet The Beatles.

What’s just as big a talking point for the industry is the fact that eight of the top ten are Universal Music Group artists, with the only two exceptions being Sheeran and BTS – although the latter are distributed in Japan by Universal Music Japan. In its announcement celebrating the feat, UMG noted that it had “more artists in the IFPI’s top ten global artists of the year in 2019 than any record company since the IFPI started tracking these figures in 2013”.

The IFPI’s global top 10 makes for an interesting contrast to Spotify’s public data for 2019, with a top five ‘most-streamed artists’ chart topped by Post Malone, followed by Eilish, Grande, Sheeran and Bad Bunny. Swift was only the third most-streamed female artist of 2019 on Spotify, so the fact that she tops the IFPI’s list says something about the sales (versus streams) performance of her ‘Lover’ album last year, as well as its success in markets where Spotify isn’t yet available, like China.

(Meanwhile, the ‘value’ element to the IFPI’s calculations may have an impact for artists who are particularly big on YouTube: we’re thinking of Latin American stars mainly here, but also the Indian artists who regularly dominate the upper reaches of YouTube’s global artists chart. Popularity by sheer consumption numbers – views, streams and sales – versus popularity by the value generated by that consumption, is an ongoing discussion in the industry.)

We’ll be interested to see if UMG’s dominance of the IFPI’s top 10 sparks any debate about whether this is an entirely healthy situation for the industry, or whether it’s just a snapshot of a particularly good year for that label group, which may flip back to its two major rivals depending on their release schedules in 2020. And remember, market share is about much more than who has most slots in a top 10 artists chart.

Eamonn Forde

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