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BTS dominate IFPI’s 2020 physical and download sales chart

By | Published on Friday 12 March 2021


Batten down the hatches, lock the doors, put your party pants on, the IFPI is back with another load of global sales stats. Will it never end? They’ve promised that this is the last lot. But can we trust them?

Well, given that this top ten combines just physical and download album sales, it does imply we are now pretty much at the bottom of the barrel. Whatever, BTS have won! They are the winners! They’ve topped three out of four of these lists of 2020 global recorded music successes. They are officially the kings of the world, and we all now have to do what they say.

This list is particularly significant for the South Korean group, as they have not just a measly two entries – like they did in the combined streams and sales list – but all three of the albums they put out last year appear. They take the number one position with ‘Map Of The Soul: 7’; number two with ‘Be’; and number eight with ‘Map Of The Soul: 7 – The Journey’ – the Japanese language compilation featuring reworks of various tracks from recent albums and some new songs.

As well as BTS, there is one other South Korean artist in the top ten – that being Blackpink. And while the other lists the IFPI have put out recently have been dominated by North American acts, on this one it’s Japanese artists who win out.

Now, I know that some people in the Japanese music industry get a bit annoyed when we all talk about the country still being a CD market and a physical media-loving nation. And, fair enough, particularly in independent music, digital services have now been fully embraced. And, OK, this list does include download sales too.

But three of the acts on this chart are Japanese, while another album is sung in Japanese. And maybe, just maybe, that’s mainly because a top ten including CD sales is going to skew towards releases from or targeted at a CD market and a physical media-loving nation like Japan. And don’t blame me for saying so. I didn’t make this list.

So, Kenshi Yonezu is the top artist who isn’t BTS with his album ‘Stray Sheep’. Boyband Arashi – who topped the 2019 list with a career-spanning best of compilation – come in at number nine with the final studio album they put out before going on indefinite hiatus at the end of last year, ‘This Is Arashi’. And then in tenth place are genre-jumping band King Gnu, with their latest album ‘Ceremony’.

There are a couple of those pesky North Americans on the list too, though – Taylor Swift with ‘Folklore’ at four and Justin Bieber with ‘Changes’ at seven. And then representing Australia, AC/DC’s ‘Power Up’ album comes in a six.

Anyway, while they may not have faired so well with their singles, this all shows how BTS still became the most successful recording artists of 2020. The key, all you young hopefuls reading, is to release three albums in one year. And also be incredibly popular with millions of super loyal fans across the whole world. Including in markets where people still buy CDs.

Later this month we get to find out just how much money was made by the global record industry last year. The Global Music Report from global trade body IFPI – which all these artist lists have been pre-empting – is out on 23 Mar.

Now, here’s the top ten best-selling albums of 2020 (combined physical and digital sales in brackets):

1. BTS – Map Of The Soul: 7 (4.8m)
2. BTS – Be (2.7m)
3. Kenshi Yonezu – Stray Sheep (2.5m)
4. Taylor Swift – Folklore (2m)
5. Blackpink – The Album (1.5m)
6. AC/DC – Power Up (1.4m)
7. Justin Bieber – Changes (1.2m)
8. BTS – Map Of The Soul: 7 – The Journey (1.2m)
9. Arashi – This Is Arashi (1m)
10. King Gnu – Ceremony (1m)