6MO: Breakthrough Music Report
July 1 - Dec. 31 | 2021
Once again, we take a look back at the second half of 2021 (H2 2021, July 1-Dec. 31) to try to get a sense of the future of the music business, uncovering the world’s breakthrough artists and tracks on music streaming platforms and social media.
As always, while you make your way through our report, don’t forget to click through the animated infographics, and enjoy the latest important music industry trends and statistics!
Our Chartmetric Artist Rank (formerly Cross-Platform Performance) is a one-stop metric to measure global popularity across many streaming and social media platforms. In H2 2021, these 10 artists rose above their peers, and all of them had TikTok play a role in their rise, cementing the ByteDance platform as a permanent fixture in the breaking of music today.
The No. 1 spot goes to Toronto-based RealestK, an alternative R&B artist whose dark track “WFM” recalls the spaces that Drake’s “Marvin’s Room” embodied more than a decade ago. The track took the RealestK to 14M+ TikTok Likes, 21M+ YouTube Channel Views, and 4M+ Spotify Monthly Listeners by year’s end. While the inescapable “Love Nwantiti” remix by Dj Yo! (No. 9) found success on virtually all platforms, the real diamond in the rough (at least for those of us in the non-Arabic speaking world) is Jordanian singer siilawy (No. 10). While Hype Magazine claimed him as “The Emotional Singer Trending in the Middle East,” his low-key, Reggaeton-style beat fueling October release “قدام الكل” (Google translation: "In Front of All") sent him past 100K Spotify Monthly Listeners and 91M cumulative YouTube Channel Views, a platform with a more established footprint in his home region.
Seven of the Top 10 rising artists are TikTok-driven, with Pnau (No. 1) having a “regular” hit cycle, JID (No. 7) featuring on a Netflix series theme song, and Romy (No. 8) and BTS' SUGA (No. 10) finding their own grooves later in the year. Taking the No. 1 spot is Australian dance music team Pnau, synthesizing four Elton John songs with “Cold Heart (PNAU Remix),” a relaxed lounge take on the English legend’s repertoire that features fellow Brit Dua Lipa. The Aug. 13 release launched Pnau into a 930 percent increase in Spotify Monthly Listeners, topping out at 29M+ by the end of the year.
Staying true to form, YouTube again showcases the sonic and geographic diversity of artists on the platform; however, an American influencer still ends up on top. Lo Beeston (No. 1) might not have generated all of her YouTube channel views from her music, but that doesn’t mean she’s any less of an artist — in fact, her 4.8K percent growth on YouTube only illustrates the changing nature of what it means to build a successful career in music. Beeston’s YouTube channel, The Beeston Bunch, is primarily focused on her family, and she’s managed to rack up more than half a million subscribers and 200M+ views in four years by giving viewers a lighthearted look into her family life. Add 3.6M+ TikTok followers into the mix, and she has a pretty solid foundation on which to build an audience base for her music. Beeston has only been on Spotify since late 2020, but she’s accrued a combined 1M+ Spotify streams on her top tracks already.
Pandora may be landlocked at the moment, but that hasn’t stopped tracks by non-American artists from going big on the platform. At No. 1 is “love nwantiti (ah ah ah)” by Nigerian Afrobeats star CKay, which blew up on TikTok in the early fall of 2021, skyrocketed on Shazam in September, and took off even more on Pandora into November. Though the track was released in 2019, it had less than 2K streams on Pandora in late August 2021. By the end of the year? 5.6M. And while it's not surprising to see some Country tracks from Seth Anthony and Luke Bryan in the Top 10, the real breakthrough here might be "The Days of the Week Song" (No. 6) from children's YouTube channel Cocomelon. As we covered in our study on how the coronavirus pandemic affects music genres on Spotify, children's music has found a bigger audience on various streaming platforms during the pandemic, and we can now count Pandora among them.
It’s been a few years since TikTok took off as a serious launchpad for music, yet viral challenges and trends still seem to be the platform's golden ticket to developing hit songs and breaking new talent. ACRAZE's "Do It To It" (No. 3) and Fave's "Baby Riddim" (No. 7) both saw significant growth thanks to fun dance challenges, while Dreya Mac, FelixThe1st, and Finch Fetti's "Own Brand Freestyle" (No. 9) even got TXT's Yeonjun to take part. Lip syncing and matching video content with song lyrics were the other popular trends in the second half of 2021, helping Clarissa's "nada contra (ciúme)" (No. 4), Lyn Lapid's "In My Mind" (No. 5), and Jenna Raine's "see you later (ten years)" (No. 6) achieve viral success. Reminiscence and reflection were the common thread for many of these videos and this nostalgic feeling is also what drove Curtis Roach's "COMMA$ (feat. Whyandotte)" (No. 1), as the backing track to the "What's your most viral video of 2021" trend, to the top of this list.
On Instagram, follower growth isn’t always about the artists themselves — sometimes, it’s about everything going on around them. Such is the case with Brazilian singer Murilo Huff (No. 8) and Atlanta-based pastor-producer Darrell Kelley (No. 10), both of whom rose to the top as a result of tragic circumstances. Huff is the fiancé of late feminejo (sertanejo or Brazilian Country music by and for women) artist Marília Mendonça, who died in a plane crash on Nov. 5, 2021. Kelley, meanwhile, was a prominent voice on the journey to justice for Ahmaud Arbery, releasing a ballad called “Ahmaud” after his death and joining other pastors on the steps of Glynn County Courthouse to support the Arbery family during the trial in late November 2021.
Kaleb Di Masi and Alan Gomez’s “Matatan” (No. 1) first went viral on the Spotify charts in Latin America in mid-August, about two and a half months after its release in early June. It was likely gaining traction on TikTok at the same time, charting on the TikTok Weekly Chart by the end of August and accruing almost 300K TikTok posts before October. Simultaneously, listeners started Shazam’ing the track, taking it to a total of 213K Shazams by the end of the year — a staggering 1.6K percent increase.
In H2 2021, Korean artists and Latin artists dominated. All Top 10 gainers are either Korean or Latin artists, and some top gainers from H1 2021 consistently gain followers. Four out of the Top 10 gainers are K-Pop groups. ENHYPEN (No. 1) and aespa (No. 2) both debuted at the end of 2020. Within one year, they grew the most followers on Twitter, and their followers are still growing. BLACKPINK (No. 9) and TREASURE (No. 10), both top gainers in H1 2021, also show constant Twitter follower growth in the second half of 2021. Internet celebrity also seems to thrive in Latin America’s music world. The Latin Grammy-nominated Argentine producer Bizarrap (No. 3), known for his BZRP Freestyle & Music session that consistently generates multimillion views on YouTube, was also one of the Top 10 gainers from H1 2021, thanks in part to viral collaborations with Duki and a strong marketing team at Dale Play Records.
Adele's (No. 7) long-awaited album, 30, was released on Nov. 19, 2021, and the lead single, "Easy on Me," charted No. 1 in various countries. Her interview with Oprah was also followed by a peak of 710K Wikipedia views. Unfortunately, not all growth on Wikipedia came from good news. The death of Virgil Abloh (No. 4), the founder of Off-White and the artistic director of Louis Vuitton, continues to sadden the world's fashion and entertainment industry, but his death also reignited the public's attention on his DJ career, bringing a significant increase in streams of his music on DSPs. Sadly, the shooting death of rapper Young Dolph (No. 1) also gained national attention, sending streams and views on DSPs soaring for his music as well, a trend that's become all too familiar in the digital age.
Music Data Insights ManagerJason Joven
Digital Strategy LeadRutger Ansley Rosenborg
Business Intelligence AnalystMichelle Yuen
Data AnalystShashank Chaudhary
Music Insights AnalystYiling Lin
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