Music & Words

Indie music blog. Their music, our words, in perfect harmony.

What do you see when you look at the top 20 singles of Spain, Ireland, UK and USA?

Sales charts are important: it’s where the money talks, it’s where the most well-known and most profitable acts reside (for now at least). So it’s always interesting to take a look into what’s happening in that world that often feels so far from our indie bubble.

Just remember: charts are only a piece of the music pie

While charts are important, they only show what tracks people traditionally spend money on. The emphasis is on the “people”, “traditionally” and “money” – I call this the iron triangle because it has a strong hold, it’s hard to break and it’s not really pretty. I wouldn’t draw conclusions from charts about the totality of the music industry – as lovers of indie music we know there’s a beautiful world outside of the confinement of that iron triangle, most of which is not reflected in these numbers.

Still, there is significant business happening in the iron triangle, and maybe more importantly, there’s significant public awareness about these acts that the rest of musicians can’t enjoy. Alas, let’s take a trip into the iron triangle in four countries: Spain, Ireland, UK and USA. I’ve chosen these four to start with because they’re big markets with a lot of musical talent.

Please note: this a snapshot of this week’s charts. How do the charts behave the rest of the year, is a different question.

National preference

Will it surprise you to find that the USA has the most “home-grown” acts in its top 20? No, I didn’t think so. But what WILL come as a bombshell is the extent of it: out of the 20 acts of this week, 16 were American. 16! That’s shockingly huge.

Even Spain, with the language difference, has only got 7 Spanish acts in the top 20 (5 in the top 10), while the UK has 3 British artists in its top 10 and Ireland, well, Ireland has only 1. And even that is a collaboration of Kodaline with KYGO from Norway. With the amount of Irish talent out there it’s kinda sad, isn’t it.


An MWB chart. Data source:

American influence

Let’s turn this question over and have a look at how much American music dominated these charts this week.


An MWB chart. Data source:

As you can see, almost half of the songs in each country is from America. Has taste become really that homogenous in the iron triangle, I don’t wanna believe it.

“Norwegian wood”

Somehow, this line started playing in my head because of, what is perhaps a unique position this week, the ratio of Scandinavian musicians on the charts of these countries. From Danish band Lukas Graham, to Norwegian songwriter Alan Walker or the Swedish electronic duo Galantis, we also have Zara Larsson who is not only present with Tinie Tempah’s song but also with her own, Lush Life. Congrats to Scandinavia on their current chart success, if they can get on these charts from countries where English isn’t even the native language, there’s really no excuse for Irish and Brit acts of the genre.

Average number of weeks on the chart

Research shows that the average time a song spends on the charts has decreased over the decades. Still, these results are far from being filled with brand new songs. Only 3 songs were added this week, and even extending the definition to 1 month, the charts only have 12 new(ish) songs in total.


An MWB chart. Data source:

The average time on these four charts is 12.5 weeks, about 4 months. Usually the top 10 is “younger” but in Spain and Ireland the difference isn’t that significant.


An MWB chart. Data source:

Are there still bands?

I don’t have a historical comparison but there are LOTS of solo artists, it seems. Bands or groups are in the minority on all four charts but there’s a relatively high number of duos as well – either permanent, like Galantis or a collaboration like Calvin Harris and Rihanna.


An MWB chart. Data source:

What’s not so surprising is that most of the solo artists are men. Yes, we have big names like Sia, or newcomers like Zara Larsson but the male dominance is consistently overwhelming.


An MWB chart. Data source:

It’s a men’s world it seems.

The common denominator

There were six songs on the top 20 of all four charts but the Irish chart had a total of 17 common songs with the UK one! It seems like there’s no big difference between those historically opposing countries after all.

Overall, there’s more similarities than differences on these charts. Why do you think that is and how do you feel about it?

All data I’ve used here is from We’re not affiliated but I wanted to give a shoutout to them for making this data available in one place.

About Miss Andi

Learning to be unapologetically me but healthier. Shamelessly personifying my dog, Mia, who is my soulmate, though doesn't let me read as much as I used to. One day I'll finish a novel that will not save the world - but might make it smile.

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This entry was posted on 5 June, 2016 by in Charts review and tagged , , , , , .

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