Media release: New BPI yearbook reveals David Bowie as UK’s most popular recording artist in 2016


THE BPI’s latest yearbook, All About the Music 2017, is published today, and offers a detailed insight into the year in recorded music, covering everything from the size, value and make-up of the UK market in 2016 to the impact that streaming and the vinyl revival are having on music consumption and consumer trends.

Amongst a vast range of facts, figures and analysis, this 38th edition of the yearbook reveals that David Bowie was the UK’s most popular recording artist last year; The Killers’ Mr Brightside was the most-streamed track of any song released prior to 2010; and that the UK retains its place as the world’s third largest recorded music market, accounting for one in eight of the albums sold globally.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive, BPI and BRIT Awards, said: “This is an exciting time for British music as more fans enjoy today’s new artists and also explore the infinite jukebox available on streaming services.

“Consumption and revenues are on the up, powered by investment and innovation that is driving streaming subscriptions, whilst recordings on vinyl and CD continue to demonstrate their enduring appeal.

“The UK punches above its weight as the world’s third largest market, responsible for one in eight albums sold globally, including four of 2016’s top ten, and is the second-largest digital and streaming market after the US.

“But for this success to translate into long-term growth, key issues must be overcome. Brexit risks new EU barriers for UK acts, who also face stiff competition from overseas artists on global streaming platforms.

“And revenue growth is still undermined by UGC platforms using music without paying fairly for it and the absence of proper IP protection in many export markets.

“Our business will only reach its full potential if government makes the creative sector a high priority in trade negotiations and offers the same kind of support to investment into music, such as through tax credits, as it has to the film and games industries.“

David Bowie is the most popular recording artist of 2016

David Bowie’s untimely passing, two days after his 69th birthday and the release of Blackstar, prompted a huge reaction among music fans old and new, who paid full tribute by reacquainting themselves with his iconic body of work or by discovering his classic songs and albums for the first time.

Using the music industry’s standard Album Equivalent Sales (AES) metric, the BPI has calculated that over 1.6 million Bowie albums or their equivalent were either purchased on CD and vinyl, downloaded or streamed by the nation’s music buyers last year.

Demand for Bowie’s music came in ahead of fellow Brit, Adele, whose combined recordings generated 1.2m Album Equivalent Sales, Canadian artist Drake, and UK groups Little Mix and Coldplay.

Blackstar would have featured in the year’s best-seller lists in any event, but Bowie’s death led to a surge in sales and streams that saw it become the year’s sixth-most popular recording of 2016 across all formats and the biggest-selling title on vinyl.

The next most-consumed Bowie recordings were his compilations Best of Bowie, Nothing Has Changed – the Very Best of and Legacy ahead of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Well over 500,000 Bowie tracks were downloaded last year and his songs were streamed over 127 million times in total.

What the UK streamed in 2016: the most popular tracks by decade/year of release

All About the Music 2017 also takes a close look at the impact of streaming on UK music consumption in 2016.

The breadth of music now available on services such as Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music means users can discover tens of millions of recordings more easily than ever.

Whilst recent repertoire is most popular, catalogue comprises a growing share of listening as the number of recordings increase with each year.

The BPI analysed the 10,000 most-streamed tracks of 2016 as collated by the Official Charts Company.

Releases from 2016 (most notably Drake’s One Dance) accounted for nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of streams played in 2016, as did those from 2015 (23 per cent).

Consequently, music that is older than two years accounted for just over half of all audio streams.

The 100 most-streamed tracks of 2016 were each played over 25 million times. Most popular by some margin was Drake’s One Dance (142 million) and the highest-streamed UK artist was Calvin Harris in fifth spot, whose smash, This is What you Came For, featuring Rihanna, was streamed 83 million times.

For the first time in five years, US artists outperformed home-grown acts in the UK singles market.

BPI’s Geoff Taylor further commented: “These figures illustrate the intense global competition, in particular from the US, that UK artists now face in the streaming era.

“While UK acts continue to perform well overseas, the rising share of US artists in the singles market demonstrates that future success cannot be taken for granted.

“British labels will need to further intensify their world-leading A&R efforts and Government should take swift action to encourage such additional investment, by introducing tax credits for music recorded in the UK.”

More than 100 catalogue tracks – songs that are more than two years old – were streamed at least ten million times in 2016 to underline the growing significance of the ‘long tail’ in streaming.

These included The Killers’ 2003 hit, Mr Brightside, which last year was the most-streamed of any song released prior to 2010, played over 26 million times.

Oasis’ 1995 classic, Wonderwall, was another hugely popular track – streamed 16 million times last year.

There is also a trend of festive hits re-entering the Official Charts at Christmas.  In 2016 perennial favourites All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey (17 million streams), Last Christmas by Wham! (13 million) and The Pogues ft. Kirsty Maccoll’s Fairytale of New York (12 million) were amongst the most-streamed songs of their respective decades.

In fact, in the last week of 2016, four of the most-streamed songs were catalogue Christmas classics – only the No.1 itself, Clean Bandit’s Rockabye, was a new release.

Film soundtracks can also reinvigorate demand for older recordings, which explains why Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s 1967 smash, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, which featured on Guardians of the Galaxy, was the most-streamed track of the 1960s in 2016 (ten million).

Similarly, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Fortunate Son, which appeared in Suicide Squad, was, with 4.4 million plays, the fifth-most-streamed track from 1969.

Perhaps the song that best underlines this trend is Smash Mouth by All Star. Entering the Official Charts at just No.24 when it first came out in 1999, its popularity has grown in the meantime, thanks in part to its inclusion on the original soundtrack to Shrek.

In 2016, it was one of the most-streamed tracks from the Nineties, played over 11 million times, and was one of the 300 most-streamed tracks of the year.

Most-streamed tracks and key years by decade:


Share of 2016 streams: 14 per cent

No.1 track of the decade: The Killers Mr Brightside (2003) – 26m streams

Key year: 2008 (13.3 per cent share of 2000’s streams)


Share of 2016 streams: 5.6 per cent

No.1 track of the decade: Mariah Carey All I Want for Christmas is You (1994) – 17m streams

Key year: 1999 (18.7 per cent share of 90’s streams)


Share of 2016 streams: 4.2 per cent

No.1 track of the decade: Wham! Last Christmas (1984) – 13m streams

Key year: 1987 (13.6 per cent share of 80’s streams)


Share of 2016 streams: 3.3 per cent

No.1 track of the decade: Stevie Wonder Superstition (1972) – 11m streams

Key year: 1977 (14.9 per cent share of 70’s streams)


Share of 2016 streams: two per cent

No.1 track of the decade: Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (1967) – 10m streams

Key year: 1969 (16.4 per cent share of 60’s streams)


Share of 2016 streams: 0.2 per cent

No.1 track of the decade: Brenda Lee Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (1958) – n/a

Key year: 1957 (22.5 per cent share of 50’s streams)

Source: BPI Research based on Official Charts Company data

The UK continues to punch above its weight on the world stage

With volume consumption of recorded music in the UK rising by 1.5 per cent in 2016 and label trade revenues increasing by 5.1 per cent – falling not far short of the billion pound mark (£926m) – the UK consolidated its position as the world’s third largest recorded music market, behind the US and Japan.

British artists continued to dominate at home – responsible for seven of the year’s top ten best-selling albums, topped by Adele’s 25 from 2015 – whilst on the international stage they claimed one in every eight albums sold around the world.

This is equivalent to a 12.5 per cent broadly in line with the global average for the past decade.

UK acts bagged four of the world’s top ten albums last year behind Beyoncé’s Lemonade at No.1, including Adele’s 25 at No.2 and David Bowie’s Blackstar at No.5.

IFPI figures additionally show that Bowie was also the second most popular global recording artist of 2016 overall (behind Drake) when consumption of all repertoire is taken into account, with Coldplay at No.3 and Adele at No.4.

All About The Music 2017 is out now.

It is free to BPI members but can be purchased, in either hard copy or digital formats, from the BPI’s webstore:



Gennaro Castaldo

+44 (0)20 7803 1326 / +44 (0)7801 194 139

Notes for editors:

Album Equivalent Sales (AES) is a standard music industry metric that enables sales and streaming formats to be measured on a comparable basis so that total music consumption can effectively be gauged and reported.

The analysis for this report/release converts all streams and sales data to ‘Album Equivalent Sales’ (AES).

Physical album and digital album sales data have been included as per the Official Charts Company database, but the cumulative total for individual track sales has been divided by ten (to provide a ‘Track Equivalent Album ‘(TEA) figure) while the audio streaming total has been divided by 1,000 (as 100 streams=one track sale and ten track sales=one album) to provide a Stream Equivalent Albums (SEA) figure.

About the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) Promoting British Music

The BPI is the record labels’ association that promotes British music and champions the UK’s recorded music sector. Its membership is made up of around 400 independent labels and the UK’s three ‘major’ companies, which collectively account for around 80 per cent of domestic music consumption and one in eight artist albums sold worldwide.

The BPI certifies the Platinum, Gold and Silver Awards Programme, co-owns the Official Charts, organises The BRIT Awards – which has raised more than £16.8m for music education and wellbeing charities, including the BRIT School – and is home to the Mercury Prize.

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