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Ed Sheeran was the UK’s most-played artist of 2021

The singer has also claimed the most-played song of last year with 'Bad Habits'

By Hollie Geraghty

Ed Sheeran wears a grey woolly jumper against a black background
Ed Sheeran (Picture: Dan Martensen).

Ed Sheeran was the most-played artist of 2021 in the UK, according to new data from music licensing company PPL.

It’s the fourth time in five years that the singer has been announced in the top spot, who has also claimed the most-played song with ‘Bad Habits’.

Sheeran also held the double accolade in 2017, when he was the year’s most-played artist and most played song with ‘Shape of You’.

The annual data, compiled by PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited), calculates plays by radio stations, TV channels and public locations.

Peter Leathem, chief executive officer at PPL, said in a press statement that Sheeran’s continued success was “a testament to the quality of his output [and] the strength of UK music at a time when the global music landscape is more competitive than ever”.

Sheeran was followed by David Guetta, Dua Lipa, Little Mix and Coldplay as the top five of most-played artists.

‘By Your Side’ by Calvin Harris and Tom Grennan came in at second for most played song, while Grennan also claimed third place with ‘Little Bit of Love’. He was followed by The Weeknd’s ‘Blinding Lights’ and ‘Higher Power’ by Coldplay.

In April, Sheeran won the high court battle over a copyright claim for ‘Shape of You’.

The singer and his co-writers, producer Steven Cutcheon and Snow Patrol’s Jonny McDaid, were accused of copying the 2015 track ‘Oh Why’ by Ross O’Donoghue and Sami Chokri.

The pair claimed that a hook which sees Chokri singing ‘Oh I’ was “strikingly similar” to an element in ‘Shape Of You’.

But the ruling found that Sheeran “neither deliberately nor subconsciously” copied a key phrase from ‘Oh Why’ when penning his track.

Sheeran revealed that he now films “every single session” while working on new music, to prevent future copyright claims.

More recently, Sheeran collaborated with Ukrainian band Antytila for ‘2step’ remix.

For one year worldwide royalties from YouTube streams, the official visualiser and Warner Music proceeds will be donated to Music Saves UA, a non-profit which provides humanitarian relief to Ukraine.

The official video for ‘2step’ featuring Lil Baby was shot in Kyiv, Ukraine last year.

“Ukraine is a proud and resilient country and I’m grateful to have had the chance to film my video there,” Sheeran said upon the video’s launch. “I stand with Ukraine and will be donating my record royalties from YouTube streams of the video to the DEC’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal x.”