Warner claims majority share of 2016’s biggest-selling albums Top 50

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Warner Music was responsible for putting out the majority of the world’s Top 50 biggest-selling albums last year.

That’s according to MBW analysis of data released by the IFPI in its Global Music Report this week, showing which LPs sold the most download and physical units (not including streaming) around the globe in 2016.

The No.1 biggest seller was Beyonce’s Lemonade (Columbia), which shifted 2.5m copies, followed by Adele’s 25 which – in its second calendar year on sale – was purchased 2.4m times.

Drake’s Views came in at No.3 with 2.3m sales, while Metallica’s Hardwired… To Self-Destruct took the No.4 slot with 2.1m sales, ahead of David Bowie’s Blackstar at No.5 with 1.9m.


There will inevitably be some debate regarding the IFPI’s classification of which record labels are attached to certain albums in its list.

For example, Adele’s 25 is categorized as an XL Recordings release, which is true… in every territory except the USA and Latin America, where it’s licensed through Sony’s Columbia.

Likewise, Metallica’s Hardwired… was technically released on the band’s own label and distributed through a combination of Universal and Warner – but only the majors are credited with the goods.

Sia’s This Is Acting, meanwhile, was signed in her home territory to indie Inertia, but released via a combination of Sony and Warner elsewhere. This time, all three parties are credited by the IFPI.

However you slice it, though, Warner Music labels claimed more of the Top 50 than their competitors at Sony and Universal.

Including multi-label releases (ie. those on which the IFPI credits multiple companies), Warner claimed 20 of the Top 50, with Universal on 18, Sony on 10 (including Adele’s 25) and the indies on 6.


The below pie chart shows what things look like when these partial label credits are divided up (ie. segmented into 0.3 credits for three-way splits and 0.5 credits for two-way splits).

Under this system, Warner takes 18.8 of the Top 50, with Universal on 17.5, Sony on 8.8 and the indies on 4.8.

(This includes a 0.5 credit for both Sony and the indies on Adele’s 25 – despite the IFPI only crediting XL for the release.)

Meanwhile, Warner and Sony share the spoils as kings of the Top 10, with 3.5 albums each (again, this credits Sony with half of 25).

No doubt Warner would argue that, in terms of what’s written in the IFPI’s Global Music Report, Adele should be ‘independent’; that way they’d outright rule the Top 10 too.

“I’ve heard people get too caught up in the idea that streaming is all about singles or that it caters better to one genre or another. Well, streaming is still just 30% of the global business, so we’ve got to chase down every opportunity for our artists. And, in the end, it’s not about genre or format. It’s about stand out quality.”

Steve Cooper, Warner

Three of Warner’s entries came from the sadly departed David Bowie and Prince (Prince’s Very Best Of at No.14 w/1.2m sales; Purple Rain at No.32 with 0.7m sales; the Best of Bowie at No.34 w/0.7m sales).

The vast majority of Warner’s Top 50 releases, however, were new frontline albums from the likes of Bruno Mars (24k Magic at No.7), twenty one pilots (Blurryface at No.8) and Coldplay (A Head Full Of Dreams at No.9).

Even Warner’s rivals couldn’t deny that’s a very impressive performance from the third-biggest record company in the global market.


MBW got in touch with Steve Cooper, CEO, Warner Music Group, to ask him for his response to the numbers.

He replied: “Hits are crucial, of course. But what’s even more meaningful to our artists is attracting die-hard fans. To do that, you’ve got to make great albums.

“I’ve heard people get too caught up in the idea that streaming is all about singles or that it caters better to one genre or another. Well, streaming is still just 30% of the global business, so we’ve got to chase down every opportunity for our artists. And, in the end, it’s not about genre or format. It’s about stand out quality.

“Look at artists like Coldplay, the Chili Peppers or Bublé who have deep bodies of work, or newer superstars like Bruno or Twenty One Pilots who are two or three records in, or even legends like Prince or Bowie.

“The album is still the most fundamental art form in music. In almost every case, that’s how you build a real career.”

Steve Cooper, Warner

“What they have in common is rich albums that have stories to tell and draw fans to the flame. The album is still the most fundamental art form in music. In almost every case, that’s how you build a real career.

“We’ve been stepping up our A&R activities around the world and it’s great to see that paying off. I count eight different repertoire centers or labels, including ones like France and Nashville, that are less traditional fixtures on these annual global lists.

“For us to punch above our weight like this takes a huge collective effort, and strong partnerships between our team and our artists. We’re also grateful to the partners that have shown support for us and our approach.”


Warner’s entries in the IFPI Global Top 50 albums 2016 (including partial claims)
  • No.4: Metallica, Hardwired To Self-Destruct (2.1m sales; Universal/Warner)
  • No.7: Bruno Mars, 24k Magic (1.7m; Warner)
  • No.8: Twenty one Pilots, Blurryface (1.5m; Warner)
  • No.9: Coldplay, A Head Full Of Dreams (1.4m; Warner)
  • No.12: Michael Buble, Nobody But Me (1.2m, Warner)
  • No.13: Sia, This Is Acting (1.2m; Sony/Warner/Inertia)
  • No.14: Prince, The Very Best Of Prince (1.2m; Warner)
  • No.21: Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Getaway (1m; Warner)
  • No.24: Hamilton OST (1m; Warner)
  • No.25: Suicide Squad OST (0.9m; Warner)
  • No.26: Renaud, Renaud (0.9m; Warner)
  • No.31: Panic! At The Disco, Death Of a Bachelor (0.7m; Warner)
  • No.32: Prince, Purple Rain (0.7m; Warner)
  • No.34: David Bowie, The Best Of Bowie (0.7m; Warner)
  • No.38: Blake Shelton, If I’m Honest (0.6m; Warner)
  • No.39: Disturbed, Immortalized (0.6m; Warner)
  • No.40: Charlie Puth, Nine-Track Mind (0.6m; Warner)
  • No.42: Kids United, Un Monde Meilleur (0.6m; Warner)
  • No.46: Michael Buble, Christmas (0.6m; Warner)
  • No.50: Green Day, Revolution Radio (0.6m; Warner)

Music Business Worldwide

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