Universal claims 80%-plus share of 2019’s Top 10 biggest global artists… led by Taylor Swift

We already knew Universal Music Group had a big 2019; MBW recently revealed that the firm’s global recorded music revenues (including merch) rose by a whopping $821m last year.

Now we have a clearer picture of the extent to which UMG dominated the blockbuster artist business in the year.

New data released by global record industry body IFPI has revealed the Top 10 best-selling artists around the world in 2019.

The list is based on the cumulative revenue generated across every recorded format (streaming, CD, download, vinyl) by each act. (In IFPI’s own words, the list is “weighted based on the relative value of each method of consumption”.)

For starters, here’s the official Top 10, led by Taylor Swift, whose latest album, Lover, surpassed 3 million equivalent LP sales in its first week globally, while breaking international records in China.

It is the second time Swift has ‘won’ the IFPI best-selling artist award, having last collected the accolade in 2014.

  1. Taylor Swift
  2. Ed Sheeran
  3. Post Malone
  4. Billie Eilish
  5. Queen
  6. Ariana Grande
  7. BTS
  8. Drake
  9. Lady Gaga
  10. The Beatles

Swift aside, there are a number of immediately striking things about the list, including the position of two ‘catalog’ artists in The Beatles (No.10) and Queen (at No.5).

Yet perhaps the biggest industry story here is that of Universal, and its association with the vast majority of the Top 10.

To be exact, eight of the artists in the Top 10 (and their catalogs) are distributed by and/or signed to Universal and its labels, while UMG also distributes the Japanese-language recordings of K-pop superstars BTS (whose non-Japanese material is distributed worldwide via Sony / The Orchard).

Take a look at the major record company association of the Top 10 below (we’ve also noted each act’s primary major label home where appropriate):

  1. Taylor Swift (Universal / Republic)
  2. Ed Sheeran (Warner / Atlantic)
  3. Post Malone (Universal / Republic)
  4. Billie Eilish (Universal / Interscope)
  5. Queen (Universal)
  6. Ariana Grande (Universal / Republic)
  7. BTS (Sony / Universal / Big Hit)
  8. Drake (Universal / Republic)
  9. Lady Gaga (Universal / Interscope)
  10. The Beatles (Universal / Apple)

MBW has waded back through the IFPI’s annual global Top 10 best-selling artist (‘Global Recording Artist Of The Year’) lists to see just how unprecedented UMG’s dominance of 2019 is.

You can find these charts on Wikipedia here; the first, from 2013, led by Sony-signed One Direction. 

As you can see, Universal has steadily grown its percentage share of the Top 10 in recent years, with over 70% of the share in 2018 (Drake; Post Malone; Eminem; Queen; Imagine Dragons; Ariana Grande; Lady Gaga – plus its share of BTS).

This will no doubt be a graph that pleases UMG chief Sir Lucian Grainge and his bosses at Vivendi – not to mention Tencent Holdings, the China-based company soon expected to complete the acquisition of 10% of Universal.

Swift’s Lover, released in August 2019, debuted at No.1 in more than ten countries.

The LP was Swift’s first record outside of her relationship with Nashville-based Big Machine. The artist says that she owns the rights to Lover, which was released globally via Republic Records / UMG.

Frances Moore, chief executive of IFPI, said: “Taylor Swift is the epitome of a truly global star. She continues to grow as an artist and maintains an incredibly strong connection with her fanbase, whilst continuing to evolve her sound with each album. It is a pleasure to be able to present her with the Global Recording Artist of the Year award for the second time.”

“Taylor Swift is the epitome of a truly global star. She continues to grow as an artist and maintains an incredibly strong connection with her fanbase.”

Frances Moore, IFPI

Added Moore: “The ‘top ten’ showcases some of the brightest and most talented artists from around the world, from newer stars, such as Billie Eilish and BTS, to legacy acts like The Beatles and Queen.

“This range demonstrates how people’s love of music can be continually ignited by new and diverse artists and yet endures across decades. I congratulate all the artists in the chart.”

The previous winners of the IFPI Global Recording Artist of the Year Award are below:

  • 2018 – Drake
  • 2017 – Ed Sheeran
  • 2016 – Drake
  • 2015 – Adele
  • 2014 – Taylor Swift
  • 2013 – One Direction

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