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Ladies Might: Miley Cyrus, SZA and Taylor Swift Help Lift UK Music Streams to Record High in 2023

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Hit singles by Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and SZA helped lift the U.K. streaming market to a record high last year with more than 179 billion music tracks streamed across the 12 months, up 12.8% on 2022’s total, and nearly double the volume of audio streams registered five years ago, according to year-end figures from labels trade body BPI. 

Female artists fueled the growth in streaming consumption, spending an unprecedented 31 weeks at No. 1 on the United Kingdom’s official singles chart – the highest total since the charts launched in 1952. 

Leading the pack is Cyrus’s “Flowers,” which spent 10 weeks atop the U.K. charts and was the year’s biggest song with 198 million streams.  

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In total, seven of the ten most popular songs in the U.K. in 2023 were by female acts with SZA, Swift, Cameroonian American singer Libianca and U.K. artists PinkPantheress, RAYE and Ellie Goulding (in collaboration with Calvin Harris) joining Cyrus in the annual best-sellers list. BPI reports it is the highest number of female artists in the year-end top 10 in more than 70 years. 

The rest of the top 10 was made up of tracks by British rappers Dave and Central Cee, Nigerian singer Rema and Harry Styles

Across the year, almost half (48.5%) of the songs that entered the top 10 of the U.K.’s weekly official singles chart were by female acts, either solo or in collaboration with other artists.

Jo Twist

Reflecting on a record-breaking year for female artists, BPI chief executive Jo Twist said the achievements of stars like Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and RAYE should be celebrated, but cautioned against complacency in the industry “to ensure that this becomes the norm.” 

BPI reports that streaming now makes up more than 88% of all music sales in the U.K., compared to 64% five years ago, with physical formats accounting for 9.4% of today’s market.

The trade body says that more than 2,500 tracks generated over 10 million audio and video streams in 2023, compared to around 1,100 songs reaching the same total in 2018.

Overall, music consumption rose for a ninth consecutive year with the equivalent of 182.8 million albums streamed or purchased in 2023 across digital and physical formats, up 10% on the previous 12 months.

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Vinyl album sales rose for the 16th consecutive year, growing at their fastest rate this decade (up almost 12%) to 6.1 million units and marking the highest level of vinyl purchases in the country since 1990, when Phil Collins, Elton John and Madonna were among the year’s best-selling 12-inch releases. 

In 2023, that accolade was won by Swift, who holds three places in the year’s top-selling vinyl album charts, including the No. 1 spot with 1989 (Taylor’s Version). Other entries in the top 10 included records by The Rolling Stones, Lana Del Rey, Fleetwood Mac, Blur, Lewis Capaldi and Olivia Rodrigo.  

CD sales dropped 6.9% year-on-year to 10.8 million units, while cassette sales stayed broadly level with recent years at 136,000 units. Digital album sales dropped 4.6% to 3.5 million units with best-sellers including Trustfall by Pink and But Here We Are by Foo Fighters

Despite the dominance of streaming, BPI reports that physical format sales made up more than half of all chart-eligible sales for the vast majority (86%) of albums that debuted at the top of the U.K. charts last year. 

Across digital and physical formats combined, The Weeknd’s The Highlights was the year’s most popular album in the U.K., followed by Swift’s Midnights and her 1989 (Taylor’s Version) set. Elton John’s Diamonds, which was first released in 2017, ranked at No. 4 thanks to the singer’s farewell tour and high-profile Glastonbury headline performance in the summer. 

Harry Styles’ Harry’s House secured fifth place in the overall year-end albums tally, while Barbie: The Album was the year’s top compilation. 

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BPI’s preliminary year-end report, published Wednesday (Jan. 3), doesn’t include financial sales data. Instead, it uses Official Charts Company data to measure U.K. music consumption in terms of volume. 

The London-based organization will publish its full year-end report, including recorded music revenues, later this year. Another British trade body, the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA), is due to report on annual music retail spending later this month.

The U.K. is the world’s third biggest recorded music market behind the U.S. and Japan with sales of just under $1.7 billion in trade value, according to IFPI’s 2023 Global Music Report.

U.K. OFFICIAL ARTIST ALBUMS CHART 2023 

1. The Weeknd – The Highlights

2. Taylor Swift – Midnights

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

4. Elton John – Diamonds

5. Harry Styles – Harry’s House

6. Fleetwood Mac – 50 Years – Don’t Stop

7. Eminem – Curtain Call – The Hits 

8. SZA – SOS

9. Arctic Monkeys – AM

10. ABBA – Gold – Greatest Hits

U.K. TOP TEN OFFICIAL SINGLES CHART 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 – Calm Down

7. SZA – Kill Bill

8. PinkPantheress – Boy’s A Liar

9. Harry Styles – As It Was

10. Libianca – People

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