In advance of the publication of it annual yearbook All About the Music 2020 to its members next week, record labels association, the BPI, can today reveal the rich diversity of songs going back 60 years that the nation’s music consumers streamed in 2019 – and some of the reasons behind this.
• Songs from 2019 make over just over a fifth of all the songs streamed last year, with Lewis Capaldi’s Someone You Loved, the most steamed song of the year with 229m plays in the UK, but…
• Tracks released before 2018 still account for over 60% of all streams in 2019
• Both the 1970s & 1980s increased their share of catalogue streams
• Elton John & Queen account for six of the 10 most-streamed tracks from the 1970s between them
• Christmas songs are prevalent in the 1980s rundown – Wham’s Last Christmas is top
• Motown & Soul features strongly in the most-streamed tracks of the 1960’s
Whilst this Official Charts-based data tells us which freshly-released tracks were most popular in 2019, this report also gives an insight into the older ‘catalogue’ that resonated with the UK. In 2019 there were over 114 billion plays on streaming services – up 7.5 per cent on the year. This BPI analysis looks at the 15,000 most-played tracks of the year (with a minimum of 1m plays) and assigned a ‘year of release’ to each, corresponding to the first day it was made publicly available.
“What the UK Streamed in 2019” and BPI Yearbook author, BPI’s Rob Crutchley, said: “The songs we all streamed in the UK in 2019, whether, perhaps, prompted in part by a film soundtrack or TV ad, a games music-bed, an artist live tour or anniversary, or by virtue of being a much loved festive hit, underscores streaming’s increasing ability to facilitate the public’s enduring love affair with classic hits alongside its passion for new music.”
Newer music dominates the top of the year-end chart…
In the world of music streaming much emphasis is placed upon what’s new – many of the most popular playlists on services are comprised either of tracks that have been released that week, or broadly reflect what’s present in the Official Singles Chart. The most popular songs in any given week will show that they are dominated by contemporary artists and material released relatively recently. Songs released in 2019 accounted for over a fifth (21.1%) of plays last year, with those from 2018 comprising a lesser share (18.6%).
The role of ‘catalogue’ tracks
There is a notable drop off in the subsequent years – plays of songs from 2017 amounted to 9.5 per cent of the total, with 2016 songs representing 5.2 per cent. But while there are years that buck this trend, the total accrued by ‘catalogue’ (anything released in or before 2017) is significant – 60.3% of total plays.
The number of tracks classed as catalogue expands with each year, but significant jump took place in 2019 (its share was 56.5% in 2018). Contributing factors included the popularity of older tracks by artists who released new material in 2019, such as Tom Walker, Lewis Capaldi, Freya Ridings, and Lizzo, along with still-popular titles such as The Greatest Showman being newly classed as catalogue.
New tracks dominate at the top
Songs from 2019 and 2018 dominate the upper reaches of the chart. The top two – Lewis Capaldi’s Someone You Loved and Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road - were both released in 2018 but only fully reached their peak the following year. 2019-released tracks by Ed Sheeran, Billie Eilish, Stormzy and Calvin Harris all featured in the top 10 and only three tracks from before 2018 feature in the top 50.
Below this top level, older songs gain more prevalence: 12 of the titles between positions 51–100 date from before 2018 and a third of those ranked between 101–200 are catalogue too. Ranging from much-playlisted Christmas classics by Wham! and Mariah Carey to enduringly popular Britpop anthems, the most-played track from before the 2010s was Mr Brightside by The Killers. First released in 2003, it was played 55m times in 2019 and has once more risen up the year-end streaming chart, residing at just outside the overall top 50. The most-played track from before the Millennium was Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which was played over 53m times.
What’s behind the spikes?
Every year there are catalogue tracks that enjoy a sudden spike in popularity. The outstanding example of this in 2019 was Lizzo’s Truth Hurts – originally released as a standalone single in September 2017, it enjoyed a prominent placing in the Netflix film Someone Great in April 2019. A TikTok challenge themed around the song gave it further momentum and by the end of the year it had been streamed over 43m times, placing it in the year-end top 100 (from being unplaced in 2018).
Virality is often a component in reigniting interest in older tracks. The sixth most-streamed track by Mariah Carey in 2019 was Obsessed, a relatively deep cut from 2009 that peaked at number 52 on the weekly chart but enjoyed real traction on TikTok.
Being featured in film and TV productions raised the profile of a number of classics. Limahl’s NeverEnding Story enjoyed a boost thanks to being covered by characters in the third series of Stranger Things. Films centred around the music of Elton John (Rocketman), Motley Crue (The Dirt), Bruce Springsteen (Blinded By The Light) and The Beatles (Yesterday) all ensured a rise in profile for the catalogues of those artists, while interest in individual tracks from They Might Be Giants, Fiction Factory and Tiffany may have been piqued by inclusion in the popular superhero series The Umbrella Academy.
Other events can cause spikes in popularity. A number of tracks from The Cure’s triumphant Glastonbury set received an uplift in 2019, the most popular being 1992's Friday I’m In Love, while a performance from the same weekend of Dave’s Thiago Silva (first released in 2016) from the festival went viral, causing listeners to go back to the original recorded with AJ Tracey. Several tracks from Beyonce’s Lemonade album charted for the first time owing to a wider availability on streaming services, while a number of Spice Girls songs enjoyed a boost thanks to interest around their highly-anticipated reunion tour.
Share rises for the 1970s and 1980s
Two decades accounted for a greater share of catalogue plays in 2019: the 1970s and the 1980s (7.6% and 9.2% respectively). Two acts dominated the most-streamed titles from the 1970s . In each of the first four years of the decade the most-streamed song from that year was by Elton John: Your Song (1970), Tiny Dancer from 1971, Rocket Man from 1972 and Step Into Christmas from 1973. With not just the release of the biopic Rocket Man but also a best-selling autobiography (Me) as well as a reissue of his hits compilation Diamonds, Elton’s music was being discovered (and rediscovered) by a huge and new audience in 2019.
Queen were the other dominant act in terms of plays of 1970s music. The home-ent release in March of the film Bohemian Rhapsody kept up interest in the band’s catalogue generated by the 2018 cinematic release, and from 1974 to 1981 Queen had either the most-streamed or second most-streamed track dating from that year, with only one exception (1977). Queen and Elton’s prominence in the 1970s is underlined by the fact that between them they had nine of the 20 most-streamed tracks originally released in that decade.
1977: A year of classic albums
The year accounting for the greatest amount of streams in the 1970s was one that was not topped by Queen, however. In 1977 ELO’s double album Out Of The Blue was released and one of its 17 songs – Mr Blue Sky – has gone on to be one of the most enduringly popular catalogue tracks of recent years. February that year saw the release of another classic album – Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, from which The Chain was the most-streamed song. Big hits by Bob Marley & The Wailers (Three Little Birds, from the landmark Exodus), the late Bill Withers (Lovely Day) and The Bee Gees (Stayin’ Alive) also contributed significantly to the year’s tally, along with the first two songs from Queen’s News Of The World – We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions.
1984: Wham!, Band Aid and A-Ha make it a year to remember
Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust was the most-played song from 1980 but no one artist dominated the ensuing decade, with a different act claiming the most-played track in each year.
Christmas tracks played a significant part in the decade’s streaming total, with yuletide standards by Wham!, The Pogues ft Kirsty MacColl, Band Aid and Shakin’ Stevens comprising four of the 10 most-played songs. Both Last Christmas and Do They Know It’s Christmas date from the most popular year of the decade (1984) as do big hits from A-Ha (Take On Me), Bryan Adams (Summer Of ’69) and Kenny Loggins (Footloose).
Selected tracks from the 80s catalogue of Queen and Elton John enjoyed significant moves up the chart from 2018 to 2019, with titles by Dolly Parton (9 To 5 and Islands In The Stream), Tina Turner (The Best) and Bruce Springsteen (Dancing In The Dark) among others doing so. Music from this decade is resonating with audiences, both old and new.
THE 1960s: Motown and Soul mix with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones
With some exceptions, the number of streams attributable to each year of the 1960s increases as the decade progresses. The biggest share of 1960s streams was claimed by tracks from 1969, which included Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles (from Abbey Road, which was reissued in a 50th anniversary edition in 2019), The Jackson 5's I Want You Back and Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline. The year also saw David Bowie achieve his first top 10 hit (Space Oddity) and tracks from Elvis Presley, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Rolling Stones were also all popular in 2019.
Motown and Soul tracks have also worn well. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's Ain't No Mountain High Enough (on the album United) was the second most-streamed track of the 1960s, with I Want You Back third. The Temptations (My Girl), The Foundations (Build Me Up Buttercup) and Ben E King (Stand By Me) also all featured in the top 10, with songs from Otis Redding, The Four Tops, Aretha Franklin and The Supremes all in the top 20 for the decade.
Top year by decade: 1990S, 2000s and 2010s
Tracks from the 1990s accounted for just under 10 per cent of all catalogue plays in 2019. The most popular year of origin from that decade, by some distance, was 1999. Songs from that year by Toploader (Dancing In The Moonlight), TLC (No Scrubs) and Backstreet Boys (I Want It That Way) were all played over 20m times on audio streaming services in 2019, with Destiny's Child's Say My Name not far off that marker. Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You, from 1994, was the biggest 90s track by some distance though, played over 47m times and ranked at number 80 in the overall rundown. Oasis's Wonderwall and Don't Look Back In Anger (both from 1995) claimed second and third place in the 90s rundown.
As shown by the 1970s and 80s, the last year of the decade isn’t always the most popular by play count. The same is true for the 2000s, where music released in 2006 achieved the biggest stream total. Two tracks (Naïve and She Moves In Her Own Way) from the first album by The Kooks (Inside In/Inside Out) featured in the top three for the year, while big tracks from Snow Patrol, Shakira and The Fray also featuring in the top 10.
2006 also saw the release of the first album by Arctic Monkeys, with Mardy Bum and When The Sun Goes Down especially popular in 2019. 2008 claimed only a slightly smaller share of plays of tracks from the 2000s, with tracks from Jason Mraz, Estelle, Florence + The Machine and Beyoncé (whose I Am… Sasha Fierce album was released November that year) among the most-streamed. The year also saw the release of Adele’s 19, Coldplay’s Viva La Vida and Kings Of Leon’s Only By The Night, tracks from which appeared in 2008’s top 10.
The biggest ‘catalogue’ year of the 2010s was 2017. Accounting for 13.7% of all plays of tracks released in that decade, popular songs originally released that year included Ed Sheeran’s Perfect, This Is Me from The Greatest Showman soundtrack, Lewis Capaldi’s Bruises (a top 10 hit in 2019) and Tom Walker’s Leave A Light On. Tracks that enjoyed streaming success from earlier on in the decade included Vance Joy's Riptide, George Ezra's Budapest and John Legend's All Of Me.