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Just weeks before the release of her sophomore album “Future Nostalgia,” Dua Lipa started having second thoughts.

Lipa had been preparing for its release for months, starting with a blitz of major awards shows in November that reintroduced the English pop star as a blond-haired disco dancer with the same husky voice. But as Covid-19 spread around the world, her grand plan was shot to pieces. Lipa would be unable to travel to New York to appear on talk shows, unable to tour to promote the album, unable to even leave her apartment in London.

Executives at her record label, Warner Records UK, began tabulating how much they might lose in sales of physical CDs. They also questioned the logic of releasing a disco record as a virus killed thousands of people a day.

Lipa decided to go ahead anyway, unwittingly offering a case study in how to release new music during a global pandemic. The record has sold more than 1 million copies since its release in March, and is on track to surpass her first album. She was the most listened to act on Spotify in the month of April, according to Bloomberg’s Pop Star Power Rankings, generating more than 400 million streams. She ranks No. 3 overall, behind Bad Bunny and The Weeknd.

Hip-Hop R&B Pop Country Rock ElectronicOverall rank3-month live gross ticket sales30-day ticket salesAlbum salesSpotify streamsYouTube viewsInstagram interactions
Bad BunnyBad BunnyBenito Ocasio is still the king of YouTube, boasting 4 songs in the top 100 at the end of the month.19203.9K2401.1M1549.3M2217M
The WeekndThe Weeknd2131224
Dua LipaDua Lipa311135
Justin BieberJustin Bieber4179101
Doja CatDoja Cat5254431
Billie EilishBillie Eilish61059712
Travis ScottTravis Scott71471630
Post MalonePost Malone831586
Roddy RicchRoddy Ricch912611
J BalvinJ Balvin107710910
Tones And ITones And I1171132
Lil Uzi VertLil Uzi Vert12225
DrakeDrake1321113135
DaBabyDaBaby1442454
SAINt JHNSAINt JHN1556817
CamiloCamilo1657718
Lewis CapaldiLewis Capaldi17311427
Ariana GrandeAriana Grande1855683
Selena GomezSelena Gomez194554749
Karol GKarol G2023856
Snoop DoggSnoop Dogg212
Megan Thee StallionMegan Thee Stallion22202228
Lil MoseyLil Mosey23401636
Rauw AlejandroRauw Alejandro24276
Rod WaveRod Wave255

Acts fluent in speaking to fans online have benefited from limitations on travel and physical appearances. No act has proved this more effectively than Travis Scott, the rapper who dropped a new single featuring Kid Cudi within the video game Fortnite. More than 25 million gamers have watched a digital avatar of Scott perform a 10-minute set in the battle royale video game.

The new song,” The Scotts,” skyrocketed to the top of the charts. It was the most popular song on Spotify in the last week of April, and the second most-watched video on YouTube, generating more than 41 million views.

While money from streaming is small potatoes compared to touring, Scott used the Fortnite appearance to sell merchandise and digital games, generating millions of dollars in additional sales.

Lipa has yet to jump into a video game, but she and her team have quickly adapted a record tailormade for dance clubs and the gym to Generation Zoom.

They licensed her music to online workout instructors, and staged photo shoots from underneath her flat. She installed a green screen in her apartment to provide a background for visuals during live streams and other media appearances, including performances on late-night shows hosted by James Corden and Jimmy Fallon. For Corden, she and her bandmates all performed from their own apartments. For Fallon, she sat in front of a screen pulsating with visuals.

One of Lipa’s biggest priorities for this album was to build her following in Latin America and Brazil, booming markets for Spotify and YouTube. In addition to licensing her music to that Brazil’s version of “Big Brother,” she appeared on the show via video, prompting screams and squeals from the cast. (Both “Don’t Stop Now” and “Break My Heart” have cracked the charts in Brazil.)

Lipa is also a frequent user of social media, and her posts on Instagram made her the fifth most popular act there in the month of April. Lipa’s success has convinced her label  and management team to rethink the traditional release strategy for new music.

“It has made us all realize the power of what you can do without going anywhere,” said Ben Mawson, co-chief executive officer of Tap Music, which manages Lipa.

Lipa has a tattoo of the number 245 on her left arm. That’s the number of times she performed to promote her first studio album, which sold more than 4 million copies and earned her a Grammy Award for best new artist.

Lipa was eager to go on the road again, starting with Europe. She has rescheduled her planned tour for early next year, but it’s anyone’s guess as to when she can actually get back on the road.

While Lipa would like to get back in front of thousands of people screaming in a stadium, the delay in her tour won’t blunt ambitious plans for the rest of the year, including at least two new singles, collaborations with a Latin American artist and a new animated music video.

“There’s been terrible tragedy and loss, and it made us wonder if it’s the right time to put out this kind of music,” said Phil Christie, the president of Warner Records UK. “Of course the answer to that is even more so. Music is an escape.”

Source: Pollstar, Spotify, Nielsen Music/MRC, CrowdTangle and YouTube

Design, development and data by Christopher Cannon, Julian Burgess and Alex McIntyre.

Methodology:
Bloomberg ranked the world’s most influential pop stars based on six criteria:

  1. Trailing three-month gross revenues from live shows
  2. Trailing 30-day ticket sales for live shows
  3. Trailing four-week album sales
  4. Trailing four-week digital song streams
  5. Trailing 30-day total interactions on Instagram
  6. Trailing four-week YouTube views

Data for live shows is provided by Pollstar, which ranks the top 100 artists by average gross revenues received per show and top 75 artists by average number of tickets sold per show. Both datasets are released on a weekly basis, with Bloomberg using the final weekly releases for that calendar month. From this universe of artists for this date, Bloomberg calculates the total gross revenues over the trailing three months and total ticket sales for the previous 30 days.

Album sales data is provided by Nielsen Music/MRC Data. Figures are released weekly for the Billboard top 200 albums based on “total activity,” which is defined as albums, track-equivalent albums and audio on-demand streaming-equivalent albums combined. To construct the universe of eligible artists for that month’s ranking, Bloomberg includes any artist who is in the top 100 for any given week. Bloomberg then sums each artist’s total activity throughout the month. Figures for a given week are included as long as the final day of that week occurs during the calendar month.

Digital-song streaming data is provided by Spotify. Figures are released weekly for the top 200 songs. To construct the universe of eligible artists for that month’s ranking, Bloomberg includes any artist who is in the top 100 for any given week. Bloomberg then sums each artist’s total number of streams throughout the month. Figures for a given week are included as long as the final day of that week occurs during the calendar month.

Instagram data is provided by CrowdTangle. Interactions are measured over the course of the calendar month, from the start of the first day of the month through the end of the last day of the month. The top 100 artists qualify for inclusion in the ranking.

YouTube releases weekly data on its top 100 most-viewed artists and videos. Bloomberg uses artists from the category of “Global – Top Songs” to construct the universe of performers who qualify for the ranking. Bloomberg then sums each artist’s total views throughout the month. Figures for a given week are included as long as the final day of that week occurs during the calendar month.

For any given show, song or album that involves a collaboration of multiple artists, each artist is considered as a separate entity and credited with the total number of gross revenues, ticket sales, song streams, or views associated with the collaborative effort. If an act is an established duo or trio, the act is treated as a single entity. Artists who participate on a soundtrack album (as part of “various artists”) are not included.

Comedians, models and other artists who appear in the top 100 of the six metrics (top 75 for 30-day ticket sales) but do not have musical careers are eliminated from the final universe. Each artist’s ranking within the six variables reflects their position among this final list of qualified artists. An artist with no ranking for one of the six metrics means they did not appear within the top 100 (top 75 for 30-day ticket sales) at any point during the previous month.

With the universe established, each artist is ranked on each metric. Artists are then scored on a scale of 0 to 100 for each metric based on their relative position within the metric’s ranking. The best-performing artist receives a score of 100, the worst-performing artist a score of 0, while all other artists are scored proportionally based on their position between the best- and worst-performing artists. The six metrics are equally weighted and averaged for a final score between 0 and 100.

Note: Beginning with April edition of the ranking, two changes were introduced:
1) Most artists have canceled or rescheduled tours due to the coronavirus, so there is no new data on ticket sales or box office grosses. It’s unclear when that will change. The four remaining metrics are weighted at 25% each in this new version.
2) For data that is released weekly, the ranking now includes any data whose week ends in the given calendar month. Previously, a week’s data was used if it was released in the calendar month.

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