Female artists dominated 2023 music charts

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By Mark SavageBBC Music Correspondent

Miley CyrusBBC
Flowers was Miley Cyrus' first number one since 2014

Female artists have had a record year in the UK singles chart, spending the most weeks at number one since records began in 1952.

For 31 out of 52 weeks, female artists dominated the chart, either as solo artists or in collaboration with other musicians.

Miley Cyrus had the biggest song of the year, with breakup anthem Flowers attracting 198 million streams.

But new music was largely absent from the top 10 best-selling albums of the year.

The Weeknd's two-year-old greatest hits compilation The Highlights was at number one, with Taylor Swift's 2022 album Midnights in second place.

New records from Lewis Capaldi, Olivia Rodrigo and Ed Sheeran have all been surpassed by 'best of' collections from Elton John, Eminem, Fleetwood Mac and Abba.

The only new release in the top 10 was Taylor Swift's 1989 (Taylor's Version) – but even that was a re-recorded and repackaged version of a 2014 album.

Top 10 albums of 2023

Watch: What's Next for Taylor Swift in 2024?

The pattern repeated itself, to a lesser extent, in the singles chart – with hits like The Killers' Mr Brightside and Tom Odell's Another Love alongside more recent tracks from Calvin Harris, SZA and Harry Styles.

The reason is simple: with decades of music available at the touch of a button, people are turning to the classics.

However, this makes it harder for new music to make an impact, which begs the question: where will tomorrow's classics come from?

According to data from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), Flowers by Miley Cyrus was the only song released in 2023 to be certified double platinum.

That means it's racked up 1.2 million “graphics units” – a metric that combines streams, downloads and physical sales.

No other record has reached this milestone.

In the album market, none of the year's new releases were popular enough to earn a platinum record, which represents 300,000 sales.

Ten years ago, 14 albums reached this figure. In 2003, this figure was 51.

Music writer Patrick Clifton recently identified such statistics as a “crisis” for the UK music industry.

Parlophone Records Ice Spice and Pink PantheressParlophone files
Ice Spice and PinkPantheress translated TikTok virality into one of the most popular singles of the year

“A new generation of artists does not build fan bases that will be buying tickets to concerts and festivals in two, five or ten years, and does not popularize songs that will be ubiquitous in our culture once this generation of music fans will have reached old age.” he wrote on Medium.

Successful artists, he argued, are those who are able to cultivate a “two-way” relationship with their fans on social media, and who “don't hesitate to revisit songs from their repertoire if those songs explode.”

Year-end rankings partly reflect this shift, with artists like PinkPantheress and David Kushner translating viral success into concrete achievements.

Top 10 singles of 2023

Meanwhile, superstars like Miguel and The Weeknd brought neglected album tracks to the charts for the first time after their reappearance on TiKTok.

The so-called “long tail” effect also means that older songs will continue to generate streams after they first appear on the charts.

To this end, nine 2022 hits have racked up their millionth “sales” in 2023, including Eliza Rose's dance anthem BOTA (Baddest Of Them All), George Ezra's Green, Green Grass and Sam Smith's duet with Kim Petras, Unholy.

Getty Images The vinyl record is spinning on the record player.Getty Images
Vinyl continues to grow in popularity, but more CDs are being sold, with box sets providing a crucial revenue stream for the industry.

An interesting side effect of changing musical habits is that vinyl charts – once reserved for collectible classics – now seem more up-to-date than the main album countdown.

Seven of the top 10 vinyl albums were new releases. Taylor Swift's 1989 was the bestseller, followed by the Rolling Stones' critically acclaimed comeback Hackney Diamonds.

New music from Olivia Rodrigo, Blur and Lewis Capaldi also made the top 10, alongside perennial bestsellers Rumors, by Fleetwood Mac, and The Dark Side Of The Moon, by Pink Floyd.

Overall, demand for music continued to grow, with a record 179.6 billion songs streamed in the UK.

More than 6 million vinyl records were sold, the highest total since 1990. Ten million albums were sold on CD and cassette sales exceeded 100,000 for a fourth consecutive year.

But streaming dominates the UK's music habits, now accounting for 87.7% of the market, up from 63.6% five years ago.

The BPI said 2023 was a “historic” year for women, with seven of the top 10 best-selling songs featuring female artists.

“This should be celebrated, but not complacent,” said Jo Twist, the organisation’s chief executive.

“Our work in the music industry continues to ensure this becomes the norm.”

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