Ed Sheeran breaks record as he is named UK’s most played artist again

Ed’s done the double, for the second time! (Picture: PA)

Ed Sheeran was the most played artist of 2021 in the UK, and has also claimed the year’s most played single with Bad Habits.

The pop superstar, 31, is the first artist to claim both accolades in two different years having previously done the double in 2017 with the release of his album Divide and hit single Shape Of You, over which he recently won a copyright court battle.

Adele is the only other artist to have topped both charts in the same year, with Rolling In The Deep and the popularity of her album 21 in 2011.

This is also the fourth time in five years where busy bee Ed, who’s recently gone back to his cheeky NSFW gifting habits, has been the UK’s most played artist, being dethroned only in 2020 by Dua Lipa following the release of her chart-topping second album Future Nostalgia.

The annual charts are compiled by music licensing company Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) from music usage and airplay data from radio stations and television channels as well as public performance locations.

Tom Grennan crowned a break-out year by claiming both the second and third most played tracks of 2021 with By Your Side with Calvin Harris and Little Bit Of Love respectively.

Ed Sheeran in the video for his new single Bad Habits

His song Bad Habits was also the most listened to track of 2021, although it came out halfway through the year in June (Picture: Warner Music)
The singer enjoyed similar success in 2017 with his album Divide and hit single Shape Of You (Picture: PA)

The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights was the fourth most played track, demonstrating staying power having originally been released in November 2019.

The fifth most played track of 2021 was Higher Power by Coldplay.

The second most played artist of the year was David Guetta with Dua Lipa in third.

Little Mix, who recently went on hiatus, claimed fourth place after consistently appearing in the top 10 for the past five years.

Coldplay were the fifth most played act.

Tom Grennan can celebrate a break-out year too (Picture: Jim Dyson/Redferns)
Little Mix, who have now headed on hiatus, were also popular (Picture: Georgie Gibbon/Rex/Shutterstock)

Peter Leathem, chief executive of 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.’

Dua Lipa was the third most listened to artist, following the success of her second album Future Nostalgia (Picture: Getty)

Mr Leathem added: ‘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.’

Most played tracks and artists of 2021

Most played tracks of 2021

1. Bad Habits – Ed Sheeran

2. By Your Side – Calvin Harris featuring 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 and Little Mix

8. Starstruck – Years & Years

9. Midnight Sky – Miley Cyrus

10. Bed – Joel Corry, Raye and David Guetta

Most played artists 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. Pink

Ed has recently added to this period of both personal and professional success after he performed his hit ballad Perfect in front of Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant earlier this month and led the singing on the national anthem.

Having shared that it was watching Eric Clapton perform for Her Majesty’s Golden Jubilee 20 years ago that inspired him to become a musician, the star enjoyed his ‘full circle nostalgia moment’ before heading home to ‘daddy duties’ with his newborn baby daughter, who he welcomed in secret with wife Cherry Seaborn on May 19.

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