'The Greatest Showman' Soundtrack Edges Out BTS, Lady Gaga for IFPI's Best-Selling Album of 2018

Niko Tavernise
Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum in 'The Greatest Showman'

The Greatest Showman original motion picture soundtrack was this year's best-selling album globally, according to the The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which represents the worldwide recorded music industry. 

The album, which was released on Atlantic Records, sold 3.5 million album units worldwide, according to the IFPI, topping charts in the U.S., U.K., Australia and Japan and hitting No. 1 on iTunes in more than 77 countries. In the U.K. particularly the album has dominated, spending 28 straight weeks at No. 1 on the Official Albums Chart and even now, after 63 weeks on the chart, still sits at No. 4 after falling from No. 2 last week. 

"At a time when the global possibilities for music feel limitless, it's fitting that the biggest record of the year defied expectations and took the industry by surprise," said Max Lousada, CEO of recorded music, Warner Music Group, said in a statement. "This phenomenon was ignited by unique voices and beautifully crafted songs, then amplified by our amazing marketing teams and the power of super passionate fans. It's been fantastic for everyone at Warner and Atlantic to help The Greatest Showman's message of tolerance and acceptance cascade across the world."

Added Frances Moore, chief executive of IFPI: "The Greatest Showman soundtrack was the jewel in the crown of a year that reminded us of the powerful role music plays in connecting cinematic audiences with the movies they love. Alongside the movie itself, we have seen the soundtrack truly embraced on a global scale."

BTS landed at the second and third place spots on the list, with their LOVE YOURSELF 結 'Answer' and LOVE YOURSELF 轉 'Tear' albums that sold 2.7 million and 2.3 million units, respectively. 

"BTS's chart position is evidence of a new era of music in which previously perceived barriers, such as genre and language, no longer matter to music fans," said Moore in a statement. "BTS's global appeal and passionate fanbase make them a great addition to this year's top ten."

In fourth place was Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's A Star Is Born original soundtrack with 1.9 million units. In fifth was Johnny Hallyday's Mon Pays C'est L'amour with 1.7 million units, propelled by sales following his death in December 2017. 

Overall, soundtracks made up four of the top 10 rankings, with Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody album at No. 7 and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again coming in at No. 10. 

The IFPI Global Album Chart combines global sales of physical and digital albums to rank the best-selling albums of the year. The chart includes physical and digital album unit sales only.

Speaking on The Greatest Showman's success, Atlantic Records' president of West Coast, Kevin Weaver, tells Billboard "it means that the relevance of soundtracks and musicals and this genre is as significant as ever." He adds that he sees "ripe opportunity for these kinds of projects to continue to have big success in the future."

"I think people are learning to expect that there are going to be big songs and contemporary music attached to big important movies," says Weaver, who has also worked on Suicide Squad and the Hamilton original Broadway cast recording, among others. "I think with strong IP and compelling projects ... it opens up a huge door of opportunity."

In more ways than one, The Greatest Showman soundtrack has been an anomaly. At a time when CDs are on the decline, Weaver says about half the album's sales came from physical and the other half were a combination of downloads and streaming. 

More anecdotally, Weaver says he's heard plenty of stories of how the soundtrack "has had a life of its own separate from the film." It's been common to hear how people who have only seen the film once -- or not at all -- still "listen to music all day, every day," he says. "I would suspect some reasonable amount of the overall consumption are people who have never even seen the movie and it's based solely off of the strength of the music."

IFPI top-selling 2018 albums:

1. Cast of 'The Greatest Showman': The Greatest Showman (OST) - 3.5 million
2. BTS: LOVE YOURSELF 結 'Answer' - 2.7 million
3. BTS: LOVE YOURSELF 轉 'Tear' - 2.3 million
4. Lady Gaga: A Star Is Born (OST) - 1.9 million
5. Johnny Hallyday: Mon Pays C'est L'amour - 1.7 million
6. Ed Sheeran: ÷ - 1.3 million
7. Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody - 1.2 million
8. P!nk:  Beautiful Trauma - 1.2 million
9. Eminem: Kamikaze - 1 million
10. Cast of 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again': Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (OST) - 900,000