Pop overtakes rock to become the UK’s favourite musical genre

A third of albums sold in 2011 were pop – the genre’s biggest share since 1999 – new Official Charts Company data released by The BPI can reveal.

Pop Vs Rock (albums)

Big-selling albums by Adele, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga and Jessie J helped pop overtake rock for the first time in seven years according to new Official Charts Company data released by the BPI today revealed Britain’s music buying tastes during 2011.

Led by the unstoppable Adele’s 14-times platinum album ‘21’, seven of the Official Top 10 albums of 2011 were classified as pop, boosting its share from 30.9% to 33.6% year-on-year – the genre’s biggest slice of the market since 1999.

By contrast, rock’s portion of album sales in 2011 fell from 31.2% to 29.4%, the lowest tally for guitar bands since 2003 (29.2%) and a significant drop from this century’s high of 41.5% in 2004. However, it was a good year for Coldplay as ‘Mylo Xyloto’ smashed records in October by becoming the fastest-selling digital album in Official Albums Charts history, shifting over 80,000 units in its first week. The album became the sixth biggest-selling album of the year. The only other rock album to land in the year-end Top 20 was Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.

Folk and Blues

It was a promising year for fans of folk, with albums by the BRIT Award-winning Laura Marling and Bellowhead helping propel the genre to 1.6% of album sales, the highest this century. Hugh Laurie’s ‘Let Them Talk’ and Seasick Steve’s ‘You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks’ also helped blues to boost its tally from 0.6% to 0.9%.

Easy Listening

The proportion of MOR / easy listening albums rose to 7.9%, with Michael Buble delivering the two biggest selling albums in the genre, ‘Christmas’ and ‘Crazy Love’. Becoming the UK’s Official Christmas Number 1 album, ‘Christmas’ also became the fourth album of the year to pass the one million sales mark.

Pop Vs Rock (singles)

Although pop’s share of singles sales fell slightly during 2011, from 38.3% to 36.0%, top sellers including Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ ensured the genre remained dominant by a wide margin. Pop sold double the number of singles achieved by rock, where the genre – led by Coldplay’s Number 1 single ‘Paradise’ – ended the year with an 18% share of the market. See full Top 20 biggest-selling singles of 2011 here.


The fortunes of dance improved during 2011 with hits such as LMFAO’s ‘Party Rock Anthem’, the UK’s third biggest-seller of 2011, helping to increase its share from 12.6% to 13.8% overall.


Classical singles enjoyed a massive leap in popularity last year, driven by the 2011 Official Christmas Number 1 single by the Military Wives and Gareth Malone, ‘Wherever You Are’.

The charity single became the first ever classical track to top the Official Singles Chart. It also became the first ever recipient of the new Official Singles Chart Number 1 Awardlaunched to mark the start of the 60th anniversary of the Official Singles Chart in 2012. The award, created by the Official Charts Company, will be given to every new Number 1 single from now, in conjunction with BBC Radio 1’s Official Chart with Reggie Yates.

BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor said, “2011 was a vintage year for pop albums so it is hardly surprising that the genre has elbowed rock aside as the nation’s favourite. Although Rock’s share is the lowest for eight years, it still accounts for three in ten of every albums sold so recent reports of its demise are premature.”

“Pop has managed to double its share of singles sales in the space of five years and now outsells Rock by two-to-one. It’s no coincidence that over the same period dozens of vibrant, digital music services have launched in Britain, enabling younger music fans to buy and enjoy tracks online at pocket money prices.”

Official Charts Company managing director Martin Talbot added, “Anyone following the Official Singles Chart over the past year will have noticed just how poptastic the tastes of British music fans have become – and it is a trend which is likely to continue this year. Aside from with new albums from Madonna, Robbie Williams, Lady Gaga and Ting Tings on their way, new releases by the likes of Olly Murs, One Direction and Westlife will keep people’s pop tastebuds satisfied.”

Coming up this week

Throughout this week theofficialcharts.com team will reveal the Top 20 singles and Top 20 albums of each category, so stay tuned to see who’s leading the charge for your favourite genre!