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2023’s Music by the Numbers: Taylor Swift Dominated, Country Boomed, and Hip-Hop Sunk

Let’s get this out of the way: Taylor Swift dominated the year in music, and it wasn’t even close. Four-year-old songs of hers topped the charts. She sold physical albums at a head-spinning rate. Her Eras Tour was an economic stimulus in every city she played, and reignited conversations around the deeply broken ticketing marketplace as fans scrambled to purchase tickets. Her relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce created a frenzy around a celebrity simply attending NFL games. And she also released some damn great music.

By any metric, 2023 was one of the most impressive years of all time for a singular pop star, and even that understates how huge the year was for Swift. 

But her transcendent 2023 was just one of several key trends that defined the last 365 days. Here’s the year in music, by the numbers.

Taylor Swift Owned the Music World on Stage and on Record

The Eras Tour became the highest-grossing concert tour ever in just eight months, and it grossed more than the next two biggest tours — Beyoncé’s and Bruce Springsteen’s — combined. It was also the first to surpass $1 billion in ticket sales, according to data from Pollstar. Per the concert trade publication, Swift made $200 million in merchandise sales at her tour stops, too — double her global Spotify earnings for the streams of her catalog. With more than 26.1 billion global streams on Spotify, the most Spotify has ever reported for a year end streaming leader, the platform paid out over $100 million for Swift’s catalog this year.

Credit that to Swift having four of the top 10 most-consumed albums in the U.S., according to data from Luminate. Her 2022 LP Midnights came in at second, only behind Morgan Wallen’s One Thing at a Time, while 1989 (Taylor’s Version) was fourth, Lover was sixth, and Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) took eighth. Swift also accounted for eight of the top 25 best-performing albums in the U.S. this year, according to Luminate data.

While Swift commands strong streaming numbers, what distinguishes her from her peers is how she’s kept fans buying her albums even as traditional sales have fallen heavily since she first broke through in the industry in 2006. That can be attributed, in part, to her knack for turning physical albums into collectable items: As Billboard reported last year, she listed over 20 different physical versions of Midnights. Earlier this year, she included over a dozen options for physical versions of 1989 (Taylor’s Version). That album marked the first time one of her re-recorded albums outsold the original version in its debut week.  

When comparing Luminate’s top 200 albums of 2023, Swift accounted for nearly three out of every 10 album sales. With 11 different albums in the top 200, those LPs amounted to about 4.8 million physical and digital sales. The rest of the top 200, excluding Swift, combined for about 11.2 million units. 

Swift’s albums took up five of the top 10 slots on Luminate’s year-to-date Top 100 Vinyl chart. With 11 of her albums on the chart totaling over 2.8 million sales this year, she makes up about 28 percent of all vinyl sales on the chart. 

The hype around Swift’s “Taylor’s Version” re-releases along with her massive Eras Tour boosted the rest of her catalog as well. Reputation, for example, jumped from 118 on last year’s year-end chart all the way to 21 this year. Going into 2024, a story to watch is how Reputation’s “Taylor’s Version” will compare to the original — assuming the re-release comes out next year, as many Swifties are expecting.

“Cruel Summer,” meanwhile finally topped the Hot 100 more than four years after its release, enjoying a resurgence as the Eras Tour took over the country.

Country’s Streaming Revolution Is Finally Here 

Country music boomed in 2023, thanks to two very distinct trends. On one end, culture war songs like Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town” and Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 when fans, many of them right-wing, bought the songs in droves on the iTunes chart. While digital song sales make up a tiny percentage of all song consumption today, they can play an outsized role in driving tracks up the charts since a sale is worth considerably more than a stream when it comes to chart weighting metrics. 

But anomalies like Aldean and Anthony serve as more of a distraction from what actually happened in the country music business this year. Country’s landmark 2023 was driven much more so by a major surge in streaming, thanks to heavy hitters including Morgan Wallen, Luke Combs, Jelly Roll, Bailey Zimmerman, and the juggernaut that is Zach Bryan.

Jon Loba, president of Jelly Roll’s label BBR Music Group, told Rolling Stone earlier this year that the new streaming paradigm has helped give rise to less conventional country acts like Jelly Roll and the troubadour Bryan, adding that streaming may be weakening some of the old industry gatekeeping and could help diversify the genre in the years ahead. 

“To an extent, there was a certain process you went through with respect to country gatekeepers,” Loba said, “and streaming allowed Zach to build completely around that.”

Last year, five country albums on Luminate’s top 200 garnered over a billion streams. This year, nine surpassed that figure. The streaming bump has expectedly grown country’s representation on the year end albums charts as well, rising over 30 percent to 25 from 19 the year prior. 

With about 6.2 billion streams according to Luminate, Wallen’s One Thing at a Time was by far the most-streamed album in the United States this year, besting SZA’s SOS by about 2.4 billion streams. Wallen’s three-year-old Dangerous: The Double Album finished at Number Five and had about 2.8 billion streams. 

Bryan, who further rocketed into superstardom this year with his first Number One single, the Kacey Musgraves duet “I Remember Everything,” had four albums in Luminate’s year end top 200. His 2022 album American Heartbreak was the ninth most-streamed album in the U.S., with about 1.8 billion streams, and his eponymous Zach Bryan landed in the top 25, garnering about 1.3 billion streams. 

Similarly, Combs also had four albums in the 200, with two of them passing a billion streams. Gettin’ Old, Number 16 on the chart, took in 1.4 billion streams, while his 2017 debut This One’s for You had 1.1 billion. 

Country’s representation on the year-end Hot 100 singles chart exploded as well. While there were just nine country songs on the list in 2018, the number has steadily increased over the past five years and reached a whopping 30 in 2023. Wallen’s “Last Night” was of course the top song in the country, topping the Hot 100 for 16 non-consecutive weeks. But Combs’s cover of Tracy Chapman’s 1988 hit “Fast Car” also finished in the top 10 this year at Number Eight. 

In a Year Without BTS, K-Pop Is Still Topping the Charts

K-Pop took a significant blow coming into 2023 when BTS, the genre’s biggest act, officially confirmed that they would go on hiatus so the group’s members could fulfill mandatory military duty. 

Some of the genre’s most influential executives worry about K-Pop as a whole losing steam. “That is my major concern. In fact, looking at our export indicators and streaming growth, the slowdown in growth is very clear,” Bang Si-Hyuk, Hybe’s chairman and the mastermind behind BTS, told CNN earlier this year.  

But at least from a chart perspective, the genre’s representation actually improved in 2023. 

Five albums from four different groups — none of whom were BTS — topped Billboard’s weekly albums chart in 2023, with Stray Kids topping the chart twice with the albums 5-Star and Rock-Star. Tomorrow x Together topped the chart back in February with The Name Chapter: Temptation, NewJeans went Number One in August with Get Up, and Ateez got their first chart-topper this month with The World EP.Fin: Will.

While BTS as a group didn’t release any new material, both Jimin and Jung Kook put out solo albums before enlisting for military service. Both of them secured Number One singles on the Hot 100 this year, with Jimin’s “Like Crazy” topping the chart in April and Jung Kook’s “Seven” featuring Latto taking the crown about three months later.

K-Pop’s representation on the year-end album chart improved as well. While BTS’s Proof was the only album to crack Luminate’s 200 list in 2022, six albums made the cut this year. 5-Star charted highest at 73, followed by Jung Kook’s Golden at 95, Get Up came in at 108, The Name Chapter: Redemption took 109, Twice’s Ready to Be took 194, and Jimin’s Face took 196.

Latin’s Star Power Keeps on Growing

The number of Latin albums in the top 200 on Luminate doubled from last year, up to 12 from six a year ago.

The increase was driven most apparently by the rapid rise of regional Mexican music this year. While Bad Bunny had four of the six Latin albums on the chart last year, albums from nine different artists — six of them regional Mexican acts — made it in 2023, reflecting that more Latin artists are reaching mass audiences. 

Peso Pluma’s Génesis finished at Number 15 and was the 10th most-streamed album in the country, per Luminate. Grupo Frontera’s El Comienzo was Number 62, Eslabón Armado’s Desvelado took 88, Fuerza Regida’s Pa Que Hablen and Pa Las Baby’s Y Belikeada took 146 and 172, and Ivan Cornejo’s Danado took 167. 

Still, Bad Bunny remained by far the top-performing Latin act as Un Verano Sin Ti landed at 10. It was also Spotify’s most-streamed album in the world. But Bad Bunny had his three-year reign as the world’s most streamed artist come to an end when Swift dethroned him.

Un Verano Sin Ti came in at Number 10 on Luminate’s chart while Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana and YHLQMDLG landed on the chart as well, taking 51st and 148th, respectively. 

Karol G’s Mañana Sera Bonito, meanwhile, took 16th and its Bichota Season version landed at 164. 

Hip-Hop’s Chart Dominance Slipped in 2023

With artists like Ice Spice, Sexyy Redd, and Central Cee, rap has a promising future of bubbling stars poised to push the genre forward, but at least from a charts perspective, 2023 represented a dip for hip-hop. 

The number of hip-hop records in the top 200 albums of the year dropped about 17 percent — from 82 down to 68 — from last year to now, as Luminate data reflects. With 28 more entries than pop (the next highest genre on the chart), hip-hop is still unquestionably the U.S.’s dominant genre, but as others continue to grow, fragmentation is becoming much more prevalent. 

The trend was more noticeable within the Top 25, where rap made up just four albums compared to nine a year ago. This year, Travis Scott’s Utopia was the biggest hip-hop album and took seventh, Metro Boomin’s Heroes and Villains came in at ninth, Drake and 21 Savage’s Her Loss took 13th, and Drake’s solo For All the Dogs came in one spot below at 14.

For perspective, in 2018, hip-hop albums claimed seven of the Top 10 slots and 14 of the Top 25. While the past several years have suggested slight dips, 2023 was a drastic nosedive. 

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The chart also suggests that newer hip-hop records didn’t stick as well this year. Just six of the Top 25 rap albums on Luminate’s year end list actually came out in 2023, versus 13 a year ago. In 2018, 17 albums released that year made up the Top 25. 

But perhaps nothing summed up rap’s slowed momentum this year than a look at the Billboard weekly 200 albums chart. It took more than half the year until a rap album hit Number One on the 200 when Lil Uzi Vert’s Pink Tape managed the feat in July. In all, just six rap albums — including Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday 2 this month — topped the Billboard 200 this year, half as many as in 2022. 

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