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Adele vs. Taylor Swift vs. Olivia Rodrigo: Who Dominated Pop Streaming in 2021?


We crunched some numbers to determine which album and artist won Spotify last year.

Sara Mekinc

There were many resounding album releases in 2021, but few dominated the media headlines more than those of three Pop heavyweights: Adele’s “30”, Taylor Swift’s “Red (Taylor’s Version)”, and Olivia Rodrigo’s “SOUR”. Both Olivia and Taylor scored Guinness world records, and Adele’s was the best-selling album in several categories.

But which release brought its author the most attention in terms of a growing Spotify fanbase? We looked into the data to settle the dilemma once and for all.

  • how many new Spotify followers each artist gained in two weeks following each release (the surrounding hype usually brings in new fans within that time period),
  • we looked at spikes in monthly listeners after the release, and
  • additionally checked out how many notable social media mentions each artist got throughout the year, to see if the artists have fans among their peers (other artists and festivals).

The results show Olivia Rodrigo beating seasoned industry veterans.

Olivia Rodrigo brought the most attention to her profile, as she gained over 14M new monthly listeners and 969K new followers in just two weeks. Her top-performing track was (and still is) “drivers licence”. It was clocking in almost 800M daily streams at the time of album release and has already amassed 1.2B streams so far.

Taylor Swift placed second with similarly incredible numbers. She gained 11.9M new monthly listeners and 759K new followers in two weeks. “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version)” was streamed the most, averaging 50M streams per day.

Adele came in third. She gained 7.4M new monthly listeners and 694K new followers in two weeks. “Easy On Me” was streamed the most, with 385M plays at the two-week mark.

All three artists were mentioned on social media by their peers and music festivals a lot, with Taylor Swift the most.

It’s interesting to note how different release strategies impact the streaming numbers. Adele’s biggest leap corresponds to her announcing the album and releasing the “Easy On Me” single, meaning that she brought in the majority of new fans in the promotional period. Taylor Swift released two albums in 2021, so she was omnipresent throughout the year. Her releases were placed on a ton of Spotify playlists (her current reach surpasses 390M Spotify listeners), and the steady growth suggests she’s been successfully converting listeners into fans along the way. Olivia Rodrigo is the Pop newcomer of the year not only because of the industry awards won, but also because her strategic releases (hit single first, album second) increased her Spotify following 50 times over in 2021.

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