The Centre national de la musique (the French National Centre for Music) is revealing the French albums and singles most listened-to internationally, and announcing gold, platinum and diamond records for 149 artists, representing a 39% increase in the number of “certified” artists compared to 2021.
On Wednesday, 10 May 2023, the Centre national de la Musique is publishing the certifications for international listening figures for musicians whose work is produced in France, in partnership with the SNEP (Syndicat national de l’édition phono-graphique – French national syndicate of phonographic publishing). Along with artists who already have an established international following, such as Aya Nakamura, Stromae, Petit Biscuit and Angèle, several musicians certified for the first time, like Orelsan, Sofiane Pamart or Oxlade, are gaining significant audiences abroad.
I/ The international performance of the French and French language music industry demonstrates its dynamism and great diversity.
French music exports are thriving. In 2022 there were a total of 326 certifications, of which 279 were singles and 47 were albums, representing a significant increase of 38% (all types of certifications taken together) compared to 2021.
In 2022, 63 new releases received export certification (albums or singles that came out in 2021 or 2022). Amongst them, 11 tracks have crossed a new threshold in under a year. This is the case for Gjon’s Tears, whose “Tout l’univers”, which came third in the Eurovision Song Contest, has already been streamed over 55 million times and has progressed from gold to platinum certification. Several artists have achieved certification for exports for the first time. This is the case for Tayc, who with more than 47% of listeners based abroad has obtained a large number of certifications: platinum for “DODO”, and gold for “Le Temps”, “PAS COMMECA” and “N’y pense plus”. And his album “Fleur froide” has achieved platinum certification. This is also the case for Sofiane Pamart, whose album “Planet” has been certified gold for exports.
With certifications for artists with a musical aesthetic as varied as heavy metal (Carpenter Brut), electro swing (ProleteR with his “April Showers” track), rumba (Fally Ipupa), and pop (l’Impératrice), these results demonstrate the diversity of French music and attest to its great capacity for growth beyond our borders. The only regret is that French exports do not achieve the results hoped for in terms of gender parity, since only 8% of certified new releases are produced by women: Aya Nakamura, Angèle and Nej.
II/ The French language is not an obstacle for export
Featured in 68% of certified new releases, the French language is increasingly present in certified tracks and albums (+14% compared to 2021). French is now the language of choice for artists with a high profile both in France and abroad. Aya Nakamura has gained 8 new certifications, and crossed the platinum threshold with her previous album “AYA” (2020). After a noteworthy return in October 2021 with his single “Santé” (diamond), the artist Stromae created a buzz with his single “L’Enfer” (diamond) in January 2022, then again with the release of his album “Multitude”, which became a double platinum in late 2022. This opus was accompanied by a major international tour encompassing a memorable performance at Coachella in April 2022. With the release in late 2021 of her second album, “Nonante-Cinq”, Angèle also continues to charm international audiences, and has achieved gold certification with over 80,000 sales of this oeuvre. The artist began her “Nonante-Cinq”tour in 2022 with an outstanding performance at the Primavera festival, continuing in 2023 with her first North American tour. Lastly, Zaz continues to promote French songworldwide, and her single “Qué vendrá” has reached the diamond threshold internationally.
III/ Rap dominates international sales for the first time, followed by electro
In a major development, in 2022 rap represented 38% of certified new releases, making it the predominant exported genre. Amongst the artists with this musical aesthetic achieving certification, Gazo very soon earned a place as a major figure in French drill. His track “Die”is certified gold for export as are his first two albums, “KMT” and “Drill FR”. A recent winner at the 2023 Victoires de la musique award for “JEFE”, the most streamed album in France in 2022, Ninho obtained 3 new album certifications and 5 new single certifications. At the same time, Damso’s album “QALF” crossed a new threshold, achieving platinum status for exports, Niska obtained gold certification for his album “Le monde est méchant”, and Orelsan also gained gold certification for his album “Civilisation”.
While electro’s share of international success is waning, performance by artists in this genre is still amongst the most impressive and the most internationally widespread. In line with the success in Asia over the last few years of his single “Easy Come” (six times diamond), Antoine Chambe’s single “Andalusia” has met with significant success in Eastern Europe (certified platinum).
Likewise, with more than 3 billion streams, several European hits and performances at leading festivals, Ofenbach have gradually established themselves as one of the most exported French groups of the last few years, last year becoming officially the French duo most streamed abroad. With 2.5 billion streams from their repertoire exported, representing nearly 80% of overall volume, the group has successfully become firmly established in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and the United States.
IV/ Digital is central to international development strategies, but there is also a noticeable return to physical media
Export certifications in 2022 were strongly influenced by a boom in the video format. Video has now become an indispensable communications tool, and an additional resource for every artist to promote their music across borders. In 2022, Indila’s catalogue gained exceptional international exposure on video platforms such as TikTok and YouTube. The French group Caravan Palace continues to unite an ever larger and younger fan base, which passes their music on through TikTok and YouTube Shorts. Thanks to a global trend on social media (more than 1 million TikTok creations), Manu Chao’s famous track “Me gustas tu” has taken off exponentially over the last two years. Vendredi Sur Mer has certified three tracks this year, “Écoute chérie” (platinum), “Les filles désir” and “La Femme à la peau bleu”, both gold, whose viral popularity has mainly been driven by TikTok.
Streaming platforms also contribute actively to the international development of French artists. For example, Jain, whose track “Lil Mama” continues to gain momentum, was strongly supported by Spotify’s EQUAL Global programme.
While recorded music exports obviously involve digital technology, they have also recently started to be reinforced by physical sales. For instance, Nicolas Jaar’s album “Space Is Only Noise” has overtaken many new releases since it came out in 2011, and Christophe Mae is one of a very few French artists whose physical export sales are higher than digital sales.
Lastly, it’s interesting to note that live performances are once again taking on the role of catalyst for export success, with major tours and a stronger French presence at leading international festivals. After two successive prominent tours in North America, the Polo & Pan duo continues in 2023 with a tour in Latin America, and performances at prestigious festivals (Lollapalooza in Chili, Argentina and Brazil, and Estéreo Picnic in Colombia). Their two albums have now moved on to the next levels: “Cyclorama” has been certified gold and “Caravelle” is double platinum with more than 200,000 sales.
The export of French recorded music is on the rise, and the export performance of the French music industry is now very encouraging.
However, although the French music market has followed the global trend with revenues from streaming increasing fivefold in 10 years (SNEP), it has lost ground on a global scale (it represented 6% of global revenues in 2011 and now represents 4.4% of these revenues according to IFPI annual reports).
In a context of globalization of recorded music, with the abolition of borders thanks to digital and an increase in competition of content, the export of French music is a major issue for the industry and must be a real concern of public authorities. The CNM intends to strengthen its action on both the financial and non-financial levels. The transformation of the value chain requires new investments, new knowledge and skills, and the CNM must be able to support training and financial investment in the industry.