Adele and Ed Sheeran top end-of-year charts as streaming boosts classic catalogue

Adele and Ed Sheeran top end-of-year charts as streaming boosts classic catalogue

The figures are in for the end-of-year charts and - no surprise - Adele and Ed Sheeran have come out on top.

Adele’s comeback album 30 (Columbia) went double platinum even though it was only released in November. The LP racked up 600,056 sales, according to the Official Charts Company.

Ed Sheeran’s = album finished in second place (432,494 sales), though Sheeran did triumph on the overall singles chart for 2021. Bad Habits finished well clear in pole position on 1,722,738 chart sales. 

That total included 12,519 physical singles, a result actually bettered by Sheeran’s single Shivers, which finished at No.15 (865,896) and ended up with 13,619 physical sales. Although it doesn’t make the Top 100 of the year, Sheeran’s festive collaboration with Elton John, Merry Christmas, has moved 13,835 copies on CD. It suggests that the singles market could be next in line for a CD and vinyl revival.

It also means that UK artists topped both singles and albums charts for 2021. Lewis Capaldi secured the double on both charts in 2019. Eight of the Top 10 albums were by UK acts in 2021.

Adele’s Easy On Me finished at No.12 (887,349, including 2,843 physical sales) on the singles chart of 2021, although it was only released in October (no other Q4 singles had such an impact on the year-end rundown).

ABBA’s huge comeback propelled Voyage (Polydor) to a No.3 finish overall (400,475), and it was the year’s biggest-selling vinyl album. Other 2021 albums that performed strongly included Dave’s We’re All Alone In This Together (Dave Neighbourhood/Universal) at No.10 (193,432), Music Of The Spheres (Parlophone) by Coldplay at No.14 (171,569), and Life By Misadventure by Rag’n’Bone Man at No.20 (144,517 ).

Perhaps the big story in the end-of-year albums chart is the further streaming boost for catalogue. According to Music Week research, 59% of the Top 100 for 2021 are catalogue titles (like MRC Data’s reporting in the US, catalogue is defined as any release older than 18 months, or a greatest hits collection).

In 2020, catalogue accounted for 56% of entries, based on Music Week research.

Queen had the biggest-selling catalogue title of 2021 with Greatest Hits (EMI) at No.5. Last year, it moved a further 229,521 copies (including 167,946 from streams and 56,861 physical units). The band’s classic collection is certified as 23 times platinum (over 6.9 million sales).

Half of the Top 10 albums of 2021 were made up catalogue titles, including Queen, Future Nostalgia (Warner Records) by Dua Lipa (No.6, 229,002 sales last year), Divide (Atlantic) by Ed Sheeran (No.7, 204,642), Diamonds (UMC) by Elton John (No.8, 197,090) and 50 Years - Don’t Stop (Rhino) by Fleetwood Mac (193,621). 

Other streaming perennials include Bob Marley & The Wailers' Legend (Island) at No.30 (118,230), The Beatles' 1 collection (UMC) at No.34 (113,778), David Bowie's Legacy (Rhino) at No.42 (103,263) and George Michael's Twenty Five collection (RCA) at No.53 (92,145).

Ed Sheeran has three catalogue entries in the Top 100 in addition to his = album, while Adele has two catalogue releases in addition to 30. 

BPI chief exec Geoff Taylor spoke to Music Week last year about the switch from a payment model to consumption. With streaming now accounting for more than 83% of the recorded music market, it’s a clear long-term opportunity for catalogue releases with an existing fanbase.

The BPI has reported on the rise of UK bands in 2021, but it’s the established acts who rule on the year’s Top 100. Oasis (Big Brother Recordings) have three entries - Time Flies (1994-2009) at No.23 (140,833), (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? at No.28 (119,995) and Definitely Maybe at No.86 (72,645). 

Noel Gallagher makes a further appearance with Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds at No.93 with Back The Way We Came - Vol.1 (70,048).

Domino-signed Arctic Monkeys, another band who have made the transition to streaming, have two catalogue entries: AM at No.24 (126,912 sales in 2021) and Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not at No.51 (92,249).

Olivia Rodrigo was the biggest breakthrough of the year. Rodrigo secured second and third place in the singles chart with two million-selling singles - Good 4 U (1,394,252 ) and Drivers License (1,303,844).

Rodrigo, who had been on top with the biggest-selling album for much of the year, narrowly missed out on the Top 3. Music Week’s Artist Of The Year made No.4 overall with her debut Sour (Polydor/Geffen), which racked up 395,323 sales (82.9% from streams).

There were Top 100 debut album breakthroughs for UK acts Central Cee, with his self-released mixtape Wild West (No.47, 98,109 sales) in partnership with ADA, and Celeste who made No.89 overall (70,886) with her No.1 LP Not Your Muse (Polydor).

In addition to Dave and Rag’n’Bone Man, successful 2021 UK sophomore campaigns included Seventeen Going Under (Polydor) by Sam Fender (No.45, 98,930), All Over The Place (BMG) by KSI (No.46, 98,787), Evering Road (Insanity) by Tom Grennan (No.52, 92,175) and Therapy (Atlantic) by Anne-Marie (No.98, 68,331).

New UK acts made a singles chart impact, including Tion Wayne & Russ Millions with Body (Atlantic) at No.10 overall in 2021 (933,429 sales), and the Wellerman remix (Polydor) by Nathan Evans, 220 Kid and Billen Ted at No.11 (898,604). 

Glass Animals achieved a global singles breakthrough with Heat Waves (Polydor), which finished at No.8 in the UK year-end rundown (982,499).


OFFICIAL ARTIST ALBUMS CHART 2021 – Official Charts Company                                                                                                     
1 Adele – 30

2 Ed Sheeran – =

3 ABBA – Voyage

4 Olivia Rodrigo – Sour        

5 Queen – Greatest Hits      

6 Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia                  

7 Ed Sheeran – Divide

8 Elton John – Diamonds

9 Fleetwood Mac – 50 Years: Don’t Stop

10 Dave – We’re All Alone In This Together 


OFFICIAL SINGLES CHART 2021 – Official Charts Company 

1 Ed Sheeran – Bad Habits

2 Olivia Rodrigo – Good 4 U

3 Olivia Rodrigo – Drivers License

4 The Weeknd – Save Your Tears       

5 Lil Nas X – Montero (Call Me By Your Name)

6 Dua Lipa – Levitating

7 The Kid Laroi & Justin Bieber – Stay         

8 Glass Animals – Heat Waves

9 The Weeknd – Blinding Lights 

10 Tion Wayne & Russ Millions – Body

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