Billboard magazine have published their end of year charts covering all genres of music and we can now assess who led the way in country music. We all have our opinions about the artists that we consider had the best year in terms of albums and live performances but this review is based on the all important barometer, sales figures.
Country music has its place in the global music empire but it seems that that place isn’t at the top table. There are no country performers in the top 20 artists chart, which is dominated by Beyonce, Drake, Justin Bieber and Adele. Adele sits at the very top of all the charts that she qualifies for. Her dominance is huge for British music.
We have to look outside the top 20 for a country artist. Luke Bryan sits at 21. Carrie Underwood is at 29 and Florida Georgia Line appear at 31. In the top 50 there are appearances from Blake Shelton, Chris Stapleton, Thomas Rhett, Sam Hunt and Kenny Chesney. Kenny was at 49 so just about made the cut!
If we look at the specifics, only one country female artist was included in the top 10 female artist chart, Carrie at number 9.
Twenty One Pilots were at the top of the Duo/Group list with Florida Georgia Line the sole representative from our genre at number 7. No Zac Brown Band or Little Big Town.
If we look at the top 100 songs of the year, Bieber’s ‘Love Yourself’ is at the peak . His dominance is confirmed with ‘Sorry’ at number 2. We have to cast our eyes way down before we see FGL’s ‘Holy’ at number 49. Thomas Rhett’s ‘Die A Happy Man’ appears at 64 and Tim McGraw’s ‘Humble And Kind’ just about scrapes in at 96. That’s your lot folks.
Guess who came top in the year end album sales list? Yes, it was Adele with her mega selling ‘25’ album. However, Chris Stapleton has valiantly kept the country flag flying as ‘Traveller’ made the top 10 with an entry at number 7. Sam Hunt’s ‘Montevallo’ album came in at number 19 whilst Thomas Rhett and Luke Bryan both made the top 30.
If we exclude all other genres and concentrate on country music, the top 10 country artists for 2016 are as follows:
1 Chris Stapleton
2 Blake Shelton
3 Florida Georgia Line
4 Thomas Rhett
5 Carrie Underwood
6 Luke Bryan
7 Keith Urban
8 Sam Hunt
9 Jason Aldean
10 Cole Swindell
Top 10 Country Songs:
1 H.O.L.Y – Florida Georgia Line
2 Die A Happy Man – Thomas Rhett
3 Humble And Kind – Tim McGraw
4 Somewhere On A Beach – Dierks Bentley
5 Head Over Boots – Jon Pardi
6 You Should Be Here – Cole Swindell
7 Break Up In A Small Town – Sam Hunt
8 My Church – Maren Morris
9 Came Here To Forget – Blake Shelton
10 Peter Pan – Kelsea Ballerini
Top 10 Country Albums:
1 Traveller – Chris Stapleton
2 Hymns – Joey and Rory
3 If I’m Honest – Blake Shelton
4 Storyteller – Carrie Underwood
5 Montevallo – Sam Hunt
6 Kill The Lights – Luke Bryan
7 Tangled Up – Thomas Rhett
8 Mr Misunderstood – Eric Church
9 Ripcord – Keith Urban
10 Reloaded – Blake Shelton
The top country labels were as follows:
1 Universal Music Group Nashville
2 Big Machine Label Group
3 Sony Music Nashville
4 Warner Music Nashville
5 Broken Bow Music Group
Let’s also look at the revenues received for live tours.
Kenny Chesney’s 2016 tour with Miranda Lambert, Old Dominion and Sam Hunt stopped by at the Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts for two nights in August. 121,000 attended over those two nights and the box office take was $11.4 million. Yes, you read it correctly. However, this gets it into 19th place on the list.
Coldplay were on tour and appeared at Wembley Stadium for 4 nights in June. The take was $28.8 million. Billy Joel made $22 million for 11 nights at Madison Square Garden, New York this year.
Beyoncé was the top touring performer in 2016. Her tour grossed $256 million for 40 shows.
Luke Bryan is the top grossing country artist. He comes in at number 11 and grossed $70 million over 67 shows. Kenny grossed $69 million for 30 shows however, so he is our ‘biggest’ live act. It was a hugely successful return to the US stage for the Dixie Chicks who grossed $50 million over 59 shows. Carrie Underwood is the final country star on this list; she grossed $49 million over 68 shows.
The rewards for the artists at the top of the tree are huge but let’s not get carried away. Country music may be in our hearts but it has a long way to go before it gets anywhere near that top table.