Skip to main content

Deep Dive

These Markets Are Over-Indexing On The Billboard Global Excl. U.S. Chart

Without the U.S. factored into the ranking, the new Billboard Global Excl. U.S. chart is unearthing a swath of domestic-fueled markets with newfound crossover potential in the streaming age.  They are…

After Warner Music released Mali-born French pop singer Aya Nakamura’s hip-hop-infused song “Djadja” in April 2018, it soared to No. 1 in France, Romania and the Netherlands, where Nakamura was the first French woman to top the Dutch chart since Édith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” in 1961.

Singing in her native French, Nakamura has scored three songs on the Billboard’s Global Excl. U.S. chart in its initial three-month run, including “Plus Jamais” (featuring Stormzy) and a remix version of “Djadja” (featuring Maluma) released in June, which has spent 13 weeks on the Global Excl. U.S. chart (peaking at No. 32) and 10 weeks on the Billboard Global 200 (peaking at No. 57).

The French artist’s success on the nascent Global Excl. U.S. chart is hardly a fluke. In Brazil, the chart has also revealed the popularity of a genre largely unknown to most Americans — sertanejo, Brazil’s version of pop country music — and it has highlighted the momentum of the Argentine trap movement, a subgenre of Latin music featuring artists like Khea and Nicki Nicole, both of whom have tracks on the Billboard list.

Without the U.S. factored into the ranking, the new Billboard chart is unearthing a swath of domestic-fueled markets with newfound crossover potential in the streaming age. A group of countries are generating better results on the Global Excl. U.S. chart compared with the Global 200. They are led by the United Kingdom and Japan, but also include Colombia, Brazil, South Korea, Germany, France, Norway, Argentina, Sweden and the Netherlands.

“When you look at that chart, it tells a story that there’s a ton of wonderful music that people are legitimately consuming in droves outside the U.S.,” says Andres Wolff, vp marketing for Latin America at Warner Music. “When the U.S. is added in, a lot of that good stuff doesn’t feature because it’s hard to break through in the States, which is still the world’s largest music market.”

While U.S., Canadian and U.K. pop artists generally dominate the Global 200 performing in English — along with globe-transcending Latin music in Spanish — the Global Excl. U.S. chart reflects the rapid rise of domestically produced music across the world, fueled by digital streaming, say executives at major labels and streaming services. According to Nielsen local country data provided by Warner Music, consumption of local music climbed by 28% in Brazil from 2016 to 2019; by 35% in Argentina; and by 40% in Mexico. In Europe, during the same period, Sweden saw a 30% jump, Norway 17% and Italy 22%.

The higher consumption has highlighted the regional popularity of non-American artists. Transcendent K-pop artists have performed strongly on both charts, as have Japanese pop acts like Arashi, Yoasobi and Lisa, which had multiple songs on both charts (including “Homura,” which hit the top 10 of the Global 200 and No. 2 on the Global Excl. U.S. chart). Germany is also finding more of its artists on Global Excl. U.S. with rap artist Bonez MC landing four songs, and Capital Bra (who has had 22 chart-topping songs in Germany) recently entering the chart at No. 188 with “Einsam An Der Spitze.”

Still, while the Billboard chart is surfacing acts around the world, artists from India and China — two massive music markets — have struggled to make the list. That’s because China has banned YouTube, Spotify and other Western streaming platforms, while data from Tencent Music Entertainment, which operates the largest digital service providers in China, is not included in Billboard’s calculations. India, YouTube’s biggest music market, has strong domestic DSPs like JioSaavn and Ghanna, which are also not part of the Billboard charts. (Spotify only launched in India in February 2019.)

Among the trends sweeping the world, including in India, is the growing impact of local-language hiphop. The Global Excl. U.S. chart is revealing the strength of the rap wave in countries like Germany and France. But for reasons involving the distinct nature of hip-hop in each country, those hip-hop tracks are struggling to translate more globally. “The exception to this is when hip-hop has Latin beats, which has a global appeal in the same way pop songs do from the likes of J Balvin,” says Nigel Harding, vp artist marketing at Deezer. “This is why Aya Nakamura’s remix with Maluma appeals globally. There are familiar Latin beats that music fans are used to and can enjoy, with a mix of Spanish and French.”

Billboard’s new chart is, in particular, underscoring the growing importance of the Brazilian market — the 10th-largest streaming and overall market last year, according to global music trade group IFPI. Despite Brazil’s massive and diverse internal music market, the country’s artists have struggled to emulate the crossover success of many Latin stars, in large part because they sing in Portuguese and not Spanish.

But Brazil’s maturing streaming market and its population of 210 million — it is the world’s sixth most populous nation, behind China, India, the United States, Indonesia and Pakistan — is changing that. So far, 12 Brazilian tracks performed by 20 different artists have made the Global Excl. U.S. chart. Over half of them are sertanejo-infused songs with artists mostly signed to Som Livre, a Brazilian label that dominates the genre. Gusttavo Lima is holding down two slots with “De Menina Pra Mulher” and “Café E Amor.”

“What we are seeing is that pretty much any project that is in the top streaming chart in [Brazil] enters the Excl. U.S. global chart,” says Wolff. “There is so much talent coming out of Brazil that it’s hard to keep up.”

Pop singer Anitta – who sings in Spanish and English, in addition to her native Portuguese — appears at least twice on the Global Excl. U.S. list. She sings in Spanish and English on “Me Gusta,” her collaboration with Cardi B and Puerto Rican rapper Myke Towers, which has spent over six weeks on both global charts. The Brazilian EDM producer Alok, who is also popular in France and Germany and has 23 million Instagram followers, collaborated on “Ilusão (Cracolandia),” a rap song about a crack-infested neighborhood in São Paulo, which has hit No. 88 on the Global Excl. U.S. chart. Alok narrates the song in Portuguese, which features three Brazilian rappers.

“In contrast to Anitta, 25% of Alok’s global streams in 2020 are from his artist page — much higher than other artists — which shows that Alok fans are aware of him and go directly to his page,” says Deezer’s Harding.

In France, meanwhile, the chart is showing how the country is becoming a gateway for Afrobeats music coming from France and French-speaking Africa. Rapper MHD, who says he coined the term “Afro trap,” which blends trap music with West African music, has a strong following in West Africa, where streaming adoption is growing rapidly.

“Ten years ago, as French publishers, we could develop electronic DJs or producers and these were the only songs that traveled [outside of France],” says Matthieu Tessier, managing director of Warner Chappell in France. “We feel an opportunity for French-speaking artists and it’s something new.”

Collaborations are still an important tool for artists to cross borders. But they no longer have to involve pairing international artists with English-speaking counterparts — and they are cropping up in organic ways. Warner found that with Nakamura, whose “Djadja” was used in the Netflix Spanish teen drama Elite, catching the attention of Maluma. The Colombian star reached out to the label wanting to be featured on the track, and Warner quickly arranged the remix.

“Five years ago, I would have never thought that a French-Spanish collaboration would have the impact that a track like this had,” says Wolff. “It just opened so many doors and so many opportunities.” 

Additional reporting by Eric Frankenberg.