Female artists dominated 2023 music charts

Female artists had a record year on the UK singles chart, spending the most weeks at number one since records began in 1952.

For 31 out of 52 weeks, female acts topped the chart either as solo artists or in collaboration with other musicians.

Miley Cyrus had the biggest song of the year, with the break-up anthem Flowers attracting 198 million streams.

But new music was largely absent from the year’s top 10 best-selling albums.

The Weeknd’s two-year-old greatest hits compilation The Highlights was at number one, with Taylor Swift’s 2022 album Midnights in second place.

New records by Lewis Capaldi, Olivia Rodrigo and Ed Sheeran were all outsold by “best of” collections from Elton John, Eminem, Fleetwood Mac and Abba.

The only new release in the top 10 was Taylor Swift’s 1989 (Taylor’s Version) – but even that was a re-recorded and repackaged version of an album from 2014.

Top 10 albums of 2023

  1. The Weeknd – The Highlights (2021)

  2. Taylor Swift – Midnights (2022)

  3. Taylor Swift – 1989 (Taylor’s Version) (2023)

  4. Elton John – Diamonds (2017)

  5. Harry Styles – Harry’s House (2022)

  6. Fleetwood Mac – 50 Years: Don’t Stop (2018)

  7. Eminem – Curtain Call: The Hits (2005)

  8. SZA – SOS (2022)

  9. Arctic Monkeys – AM (2013)

  10. Abba – Gold: Greatest Hits (1992)

The pattern was repeated, to a lesser extent, in the singles chart – with throwback hits like The Killers’ Mr Brightside and Tom Odell’s Another Love nestling alongside newer tracks by Calvin Harris, SZA and Harry Styles

The reason is simple: with decades of music available at the touch of the button, people gravitate towards the classics.

However, that makes it harder for new music to make an impact, raising the question: where will the classics of tomorrow come from?

Total audio streams by year. .  .

Total audio streams by year. . .

According to data from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), Miley Cyrus’s Flowers was the only song released in 2023 to be certified double platinum.

That means it racked up 1.2 million “chart units” – a measure that combines streams, downloads and physical sales.

No other record reached that milestone.

In the albums market, none of the year’s new releases were popular enough to be awarded a platinum disc, representing 300,000 sales.

Ten years ago, 14 albums hit that mark. In 2003, the figure was 51.

Music writer Patrick Clifton recently identified that statistics like these added up to a “crisis” for the British music industry.

Ice Spice and PinkPantheress

Ice Spice and PinkPantheress translated TikTok virality into one of the year’s biggest hit singles

“A new generation of artists is not building fanbases that will buy gig and festival tickets in two, five, or 10-years’ time, and is not popularising songs that will have ubiquity in our culture once this generation of music fans reaches old age,” he wrote on Medium.

The artists who succeed, he argued, are those who are able to cultivate a “two-way” relationship with fans on social media, and “don’t mind revisiting songs from their repertoire if those songs blow up”.

The year-end charts partially reflect this shift, with artists like PinkPantheress and David Kushner translating viral success into real-world achievements.

Top 10 singles of 2023

  1. Miley Cyrus – Flowers

  2. Dave & Central Cee – Sprinter

  3. Raye ft 070 Shake – Escapism

  4. Taylor Swift – Anti-Hero

  5. Calvin Harris & Ellie Goulding – Miracle

  6. Rema ft Selena Gomez – Calm Down

  7. SZA – Kill Bill

  8. PinkPantheress ft Ice Spice – Boy’s A Liar Pt. 2

  9. Harry Styles – As It Was

  10. Libianca – People

Meanwhile, superstars like Miguel and The Weeknd took overlooked album tracks into the charts for the first time after they resurfaced on TiKTok.

The so-called “long tail” effect also means that older songs will continue to generate streams after their initial chart run.

To that effect, nine hits from 2022 racked up their millionth “sale” in 2023, including Eliza Rose’s dance anthem BOTA (Baddest Of Them All), George Ezra’s Green, Green Grass and Sam Smith’s duet with Kim Petras, Unholy.

Vinyl record spins on record player.

Vinyl continues to grow in popularity – but more CDs are sold, with box sets providing a crucial revenue stream to the industry

One interesting side-effect of the shift in music habits is that the vinyl charts – once the preserve of collectible classics – now seem more up-to-date than the main album countdown.

Seven of the top 10 vinyl albums were new releases. Taylor Swift’s 1989 was the best-seller, followed by The Rolling Stones’ critically-acclaimed comeback Hackney Diamonds.

New music from Olivia Rodrigo, Blur and Lewis Capaldi also made the top 10, alongside the perennial best-sellers Rumours, by Fleetwood Mac, and The Dark Side Of The Moon, by Pink Floyd.

CD and vinyl sales by year. .  .

CD and vinyl sales by year. . .

Overall, demand for music continued to grow, with a record 179.6 billion songs streamed in the UK.

More than 6 million vinyl records were sold, the highest total since 1990. Ten million albums were sold on CD, and cassette sales topped 100,000 for a fourth consecutive year.

But streaming dominates the UK’s music habits, now accounting for 87.7% of the market, compared to 63.6% five years ago.

The BPI said 2023 was a “landmark” year for women, with seven of the top 10 best-selling songs featuring female acts.

“This should be celebrated, but without complacency,” said Jo Twist, the organisation’s chief executive.

“Our work in the music industry continues to ensure that this becomes the norm.”

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