Every Country's Most Listened-to Current and Past Artists
It's 45 years since the Daily Mirror exposed a "network of housewives" buying multiple copies of the same single from record shops to skew the official pop charts.
The record companies did not expect these conspiratorial consumers to get their artists to number one (which would cost a fortune). The aim was merely to get songs high enough into the charts to generate a buzz. And then genuine record buyers would do the rest.
Nobody knows if these women listened to the records. They probably didn't listen to multiple copies of the same one. But today we know not just which records are bought but which ones are actually heard, thanks to streaming counts on the likes of Spotify and YouTube.
In fact, in 2022, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) recognized that YouTube is now one of the "pillars in people's music discovery." And they created a framework for the official pop charts around the world to include YouTube plays in their calculations.
So which music - new and old - are the listenerships from country to country discovering? And then sticking on repeat, free from the danger of wearing out the record? Liberty Games delved deep into YouTube's geographic streaming data to find out which songs and artists are heard the most.
What We Did
Liberty Games calculated the most listened-to artists and songs over the past 12 months using play counts from the YouTube Video Music Charts. To identify the top players in each genre, we first compiled lists of the most popular musicians in each category and then retrieved the view counts per country for each artist.
- Bollywood 'playback singer' Alka Yagnik is the most listened artist in the world, with 14.8B YouTube streams.
- Songs from the Indian movie Pushpa: The Rise account for the three most listened songs in the world, with a combined 3.1B streams.
- Indian music aside, Me Porto Bonito by Bad Bunny & Chencho Corleone is the world's most listened-to song over the past year.
- 2Pac is the world's most streamed hip-hop artist, with more than twice the streams of the second-placed Notorious B.I.G.
Bollywood and K-pop Stars Get Lion's Share of Listens
The top ten table of the most listened-to artists in the world is dominated by Indian artists, including 'playback singers' such as number one Alka Yagnik. Playback singers record the vocals for songs that are then lip-synced in musical movies; in Bollywood, these figures are celebrated as much as on-screen performers, and two days of national mourning were declared when Lata Mangeshkar (number nine on our chart) died, aged 92, in February.
Bad Bunny is a regular on YouTube's most played lists and is only 700 million plays/year behind Alka Yagnik (that's peanuts at this level!). However, Bad Bunny is the most popular artist judged by the number of countries in which they top. The Puerto Rican singer/rapper/producer is the top singer in 17 countries, most in Latin America but also including Andorra, Belize and Spain. He has 44.6m subscribers on YouTube and is enjoying the tailwind of his 2021 Grammy for best Latin pop album. Established K-pop bands BTS and Blackpink - the two most subscribed acts on YouTube - also feature in the top ten global listens.
Bad Bunny Battles Bollywood for World's Top Song
There are the artists to whom you pledge undying loyalty, and then there are the songs you can't get enough of. Bad Bunny has a knack for creating the latter, with the top song in seven countries and two songs - with a combined stream of 1.75B - in the top ten globally. One of these, Titi Me Pregunto, is Rolling Stones Magazine's Best Song of 2022.
Bollywood tracks and Indian pop songs account for seven of the ten most needed songs in the world, with the top three alone coming from just one movie. Pushpa: The Rise is a Tollywood (Telugu-language) picture about the rising fortunes of a sandalwood smuggler, and its soundtrack can be streamed in at least five Indian languages.
2Pac Gets 2x the Streams of The Notorious B.I.G.
The old-school hip-hop chart has a long tail: 2Pac has more than double the global listens of the second-placed Notorious B.I.G., who has 50% more listens than Ice Cube. The rest of the top ten settles a little on either side of 250m annual streams each. 2Pac's Greatest Hits has been on the Billboard 200 album chart for a total of 450 weeks and counting. His friend-turned-rival Notorious B.I.G. has had a boost in listens this year on the 50th anniversary of his birth and the 25th of his death, with a much-hyped VR concert reigniting interest in the late rapper.
2Pac is also overwhelmingly the most popular hip-hop artist by the number of countries (89, including the UK and U.S.) next to Biggie's 12. The Beastie Boys have had beef with the Chinese government in the past, and YouTube is banned in the country, making it doubly naughty to listen to the group on YouTube in China. Still, China is the only country in the world where the Beasties are the most listened-to hip-hop outfit.
Queen Rule Classic Rock Charts
The golden age of rock, where the latest and greatest hits came blasting out of your local jukebox, is behind us. But the undisputed GOATs of its various subcategories continue to inspire new acts while comforting ageing dads. While grunge, metal, beat pop and poodle rock acts are among today's most listened-to, the top rock band of all evades clear categorization. Are Queen art rock, prog, glam, psychedelic or opera? Somehow, they dabble in each while always sounding like Queen. What we can say is that they are the most listened-to classic rock band in the world by a margin of over half a billion annual streams globally.
Queen is also the top rock band locally in 63 countries (eclipsing second-placed Bon Jovi (17)), including their 'home town' - the UK. Meanwhile, Blighty's most influential band, The Beatles, is top only in Japan. Their popularity in Japan got a potential boost in 2022 after transparency campaigners succeeded in de-classifying 35 minutes of rare police footage of the band during their last-ever tour of the country. But The Beatles also make it to our global top ten with a billion annual YouTube streams.
Chopin Still YouTube Number One After 173 Years
Frederic Chopin's still got it, raking in 50.4m listens each year on YouTube and topping the charts in 28 countries, including the UK and his homeland, Poland. Specialising in piano works in the romantic style, Chopin completed more than 230 works, including "20 nocturnes, 25 preludes, 17 waltzes, 15 polonaises, 58 mazurkas and 27 etudes" despite succumbing to tuberculosis at just 39 years old in 1849.
The oldest star in our whole study is Hildegard von Bingen, the 12th-century artist behind hits such as Nunc Aperuit Nobis and Vos Flores Rosarum. The celebrated composer of monophonic chants and founder of German scientific natural history is big in Nepal some 843 years after her death. Although, it's possible Nepalese YouTubers are actually searching for bardcore cover artist Hildegard von Blingin.
Alan Jackson is Most Listened-to Old-School Country Artist Globally.
Despite its American flavour, old-school country music is big across the world: the number one artist globally, Alan Jackson, has millions of views as far afield as Australia (14m), Brazil (43.1m) and Norway (1.35m). Jackson completed his goodbye tour in 2022, having revealed that he has been living with the chronic, inherited neuropathy condition CMT (Charcot-Marie-Tooth) the previous year. The revived interest in his work has pushed him to number one in 12 countries, with a global listenership of 412m on YouTube.
However, there are three titans of the genre battling it out for the honour of being number one in most countries. The Canadian best-selling female artist in country music Shania Twain takes 36 countries; Johnny Cash, the morose 'Man in Black,' is top in 37. But it is Kenny Rogers who has the most to his name - 39, including the UK.
Video Killed the Radio Star
YouTube's Music and Premium subscriptions have risen 60% in the past year, demonstrating the truth behind IFPI's assertion that the video site is a pillar of contemporary taste-making. Meanwhile, Spotify's charts are undoubtedly skewed by everyone saving their guilty pleasures for the no man's land between its annual Wrapped sum-up and the new year. So, YouTube is the place to go to gauge which breakout artists and established masters are dictating the sound of the world's culture today. You can check through our data in full in this interactive table to get right down to the nitty-gritty.
With Spotify plagued by fake streams and rising prices and real-life record shops staffed by undercover cops, it will be YouTube to which the discerning public turns as tastes and trends develop over 2023. Will Bad Bunny get better? Will Pushpa 2 come out in cinemas and radically update our listening habits? And isn't it time Hildegard von Bingen dropped a new vid? Watch this space!
METHODOLOGY & SOURCES
To find the most listened-to artist in each country in 2022, we located each country's page on the YouTube Video Music Charts and isolated the top artist and country ranked by the number of views in the last 12 months.
The most listened-to song in each country in 2022 was similarly found by filtering for the last 12 months on each country's page on the YouTube Video Music Charts.
To find the most listened-to artist of each genre in each country, we first compiled a seed list of the most popular old-school artists in the rock, hip-hop, classical and country music genres. Each artist on the seed list was then searched on the YouTube Video Music Charts to find their individual page, e.g., for 2Pac. Then we set the time frame filter for "12 months" and the location filter for "global." We could then find view counts for that artist in each country.
Finally, we ranked the top 10 global songs and artists by combining views across countries for top songs and by using an artist's total view count for the past 12 months as listed on their YouTube Charts page.
It should be noted that view counts for top songs on YouTube (those listed on the country pages on Youtube Charts) are sometimes smaller than view counts on Youtube Charts. More information on how views are calculated can be found on the Music Charts and Insights page.
Our data was collected between the 24th and 28th of October 2022.