BPI Reveals David Bowie as UK's Most Popular Artist in 2016; UMG Top Label

David Bowie performs in London
Dave Benett/Getty Images

David Bowie performs at The Hammersmith Appollo in London.

David Bowie has been named the U.K.'s most popular recording artist of 2016, ahead of Adele and Drake, by British labels trade body BPI. Using the Album Equivalent Sales (AES) metric, it says that more than 1.6 million Bowie albums were streamed or purchased last year, beating his nearest rival, Adele, by around 400,000 units.

Blackstar, the singer's final studio album, released two days after his death in January last year, was the most popular Bowie title, followed by three greatest hits compilations (Best of Bowie, Nothing Has Changed -- The Very Best Of and Legacy) and 1971's Hunky Dory.

In total, over 500,000 Bowie tracks were downloaded by U.K. consumers in 2016, while his songs were streamed over 127 million times, according to BPI's All About The Music 2017 yearbook, which provides detailed analysis of the U.K. recorded music market.

Key takeaways from this year's edition include the fact that U.K. artists accounted for one in eight albums sold globally (down from one in six in 2015), including four of last year's Top 10, and is the second largest digital and streaming market after the U.S.

While homegrown acts continued to dominate the U.K.'s domestic albums market, American artists collectively claimed the largest share of U.K. singles sales for the first time in five years, with tracks from Justin Timberlake, Mike Posner and The Chainsmokers all featuring in the year-end top 10, compared to just one from a British artist (Calvin Harris). As previously announced, Drake's "One Dance" was the top track of 2016, with over 141 million U.K. streams.  Meanwhile, rock and pop were the most popular genres for albums and singles, respectively, when combining digital streams and sales.

In regards to unit sales, no album achieved an annual chart-eligible total of over a million in 2016, but the number of singles doing so doubled to 16, including tracks by Fifth Harmony and Shawn Mendes. Out of the hundreds of thousands of albums commercially released in the U.K. in 2016, around 375,000 albums sold at least one copy -- a 3.8 percent decrease on the previous year. Of those, only 2.5 percent crossed 1,000 sales and the vast majority (87 percent) sold 100 copies or less.

Breaking down labels' market share, Universal accounted for 35 percent of album sales (up from 34.4 percent in 2015. Sony Music made up 25.2 percent (up from 22.5 percent) and Warner held 17.2 percent (up from 16.6 percent). BMG held forth spot with 2.4 percent (up from 1.8 percent).

Independent labels' market share dropped by 4 percent to 22.6 percent with indie labels accounting for one in every five albums sold in Britain in 2016. BPI partially attributed the fall down to the acquisition of Ministry Of Sound by Sony Music in late summer 2016 and the colossal success of Adele's 25 in 2015 (independently released by XL Recordings in the U.K.).

When it comes to distributors, Sony DADC (who handle Universal and Sony's physical product) distributed eight of the top 10 biggest-selling albums of 2016, accounting for 35.2 percent of the market. It was followed by Universal Music (16.5 percent), Sony Music (11.4 percent) and Cinram (9.2 percent).

The BPI year-book also provided some interesting data in regards to the ‘long tail' in streaming, with The Killers' "Mr Brightside" taking the somewhat unexpected title of the most streamed song of 2016 released prior to 2010 with more than 26 million streams. More than 100 catalogue tracks -- defined by BPI as songs that are more than two years old -- were streamed over one million times in 2016.

Total spending on music by British consumers rose by 4.6 percent in 2016, to £1.1 billion ($1.4 billion), with paid streaming accounting for over a third of all sales.

"The U.K. punches above its weight as the world's third largest market," said BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor in a statement. "But for this success to translate into long-term growth, key issues must be overcome. Brexit risks new EU barriers for U.K. acts, who also face stiff competition from overseas artists on global streaming platforms."

Warning that revenue growth is being undermined by user generated platforms like YouTube "using music without paying fairly for it," Taylor went on to say that the U.K. music industry 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."

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