triumphant 2021 for ed sheeran as he is crowned the year’s most played artist and ‘bad habits’ the most played track

It is the first time he has held both top spots in PPL’s Most Played Charts since 2017, when ÷ was released and ‘Shape Of You’ dominated the airwaves. No artist has managed to top both charts twice; indeed, Adele is the only other artist to top both charts, with “Rolling in the Deep” and the popularity of her album “21” in 2011. It is also the fourth time in five years that Sheeran is the UK’s most played artist, being pipped to the post in 2020 by Dua Lipa and the popularity of her hit album Future Nostalgia.

PPL’s annual Most Played Charts are compiled from exclusive UK recorded music usage and airplay data obtained by PPL from radio stations and television channels as well as public performance locations, such as offices, shops, bars, nightclubs, music venues and festivals. This data showcases the music that soundtracks our lives.

The most played tracks

‘By Your Side’ by Calvin Harris and Tom Grennan and ‘Little Bit Of Love’, again by Grennan, are the second and third most played tracks of 2021. Tom Grennan had a stand-out year, having never previously made the top 10 in either of the artist or track charts.

The Weeknd’s ‘Blinding Lights’ is the fourth most played track, demonstrating significant staying power having originally been released in November 2019 and being 2020’s most played track.

The fifth most played track of 2021 is ‘Higher Power’ by Coldplay. Released in May and performed as the opener of 2021’s BRIT Awards, it is the latest in a line of hits from one of the UK’s longest serving bands. In the last ten years, they have had two tracks feature in the top ten most played track chart: ‘Something Just Like This’ with The Chainsmokers (seventh in 2017) and ‘Adventure Of A Lifetime’ (tenth in 2016).

The top ten most played tracks of 2021 also features ‘All You Ever Wanted’ by Rag’n’Bone Man in sixth, his first entry since topping the track chart in 2019 with ‘Giant’, a collaboration with Calvin Harris. ‘Heartbreak Anthem’ by Galantis, David Guetta and Little Mix (seventh) is the first of two David Guetta collaborations that feature in the top ten most played tracks with the other being ‘Bed’, by Joel Corry, Raye and Guetta, in tenth. Rounding off the top ten is ‘Starstruck’ by Years & Years in eighth and ‘Midnight Sky’ by Miley Cyrus in ninth.

The most played artists

David Guetta’s two tracks in the top ten helped him to second in the most played artist chart, followed by Dua Lipa in third. Little Mix are the fourth most played artist of 2021 and have been in the top ten most played artist chart in each of the last five years, reflecting their sustained popularity. Coldplay too are a band with staying power. They are the fifth most played artist in 2021 and, since 2012, have featured in the top ten most played artist chart eight times and secured the number one spot twice, in 2016 and 2012. The continued popularity of ‘Blinding Lights’, as well as a new album, has helped The Weeknd to sixth place, with Justin Bieber following in seventh. Calvin Harris was the UK’s eighth most played artist of 2021 and marks the only time he has dropped out of the top five in the last five years. Taylor Swift and P!nk are ninth and tenth respectively. P!nk’s back catalogue remains very popular and last year PPL reported she was the UK’s most played female artist of the 21st Century.

Peter Leathem, Chief Executive Officer at PPL, said:

“Congratulations to Ed Sheeran for having the UK’s most played track of 2021 and being the UK’s most played artist of 2021. His chart-topping success over the last five years is a testament to not only the quality of his output but also the strength of UK music at a time when the global music landscape is more competitive than ever.

PPL plays a vital role in the UK music ecosystem, collecting royalties when these recordings and hundreds of thousands more are broadcast on TV, radio and played in public, with total revenue of £252.8m in 2021. Both the performers on a recording and the recording rightsholders benefit from these royalties, providing an important revenue stream for many in the music industry, from household names to those just starting out.”

PPL’s Most Played Charts of 2021 are announced today as the company hosts its AGM and publishes its Annual Review, detailing last year’s financial and operational results. In 2021, PPL collected a total of £252.8 million for performers and recording rightsholders. It distributed money at least once to 147,000 performers and recording rightsholders.

PPL’s most played tracks chart of 2021

  1. ‘Bad Habits’ – Ed Sheeran
  2. ‘By Your Side’ – Calvin Harris Feat. Tom Grennan
  3. ‘Little Bit Of Love’ – Tom Grennan
  4. ‘Blinding Lights’ – The Weeknd
  5. ‘Higher Power’ – Coldplay
  6. ‘All You Ever Wanted’ – Rag’n’Bone Man
  7. ‘Heartbreak Anthem’ – Galantis, David Guetta & Little Mix
  8. ‘Starstruck’ – Years & Years
  9. ‘Midnight Sky’ – Miley Cyrus
  10. ‘Bed’ – Joel Corry X Raye X David Guetta

PPL’s most played artists chart of 2021

  1. Ed Sheeran
  2. David Guetta
  3. Dua Lipa
  4. Little Mix
  5. Coldplay
  6. The Weeknd
  7. Justin Bieber
  8. Calvin Harris
  9. Taylor Swift
  10. P!nk