Bad Bunny performs at the 2020 Billboard Music Awards.
Bad Bunny performs at the 2020 Billboard Music Awards. Photographer: Christopher Polk/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

The Four New Global Capitals of Music

Bad Bunny is the biggest pop star in the world.

It still surprises many U.S. readers that a musician from a small island in the Caribbean is the biggest star in the world, but this won’t surprise anyone who has followed Bloomberg‘s Pop Star Power rankings. The Puerto Rican reggaeton star has finished at the top the charts five times in 10 months.

Look further down the list and you’ll see he is the first in what will no doubt be a trend. A growing number of the biggest pop stars in the world are from outside the traditional capitals of the continental U.S. and U.K.

Of the 25 biggest pop stars in the month of January, 12 hailed from places that speak a language other than English. (That total was just four last April.) The list includes five people from Puerto Rico, four from Colombia, two from India and one from South Korea. These four territories represent the new capitals of pop music.

Puerto Rico and Colombia are the two hubs of reggaeton, exporting popular Latin Music all across the Spanish-speaking world. Myke Towers, a 27-year-old rapper from Río Pedras, appears on four of the 100 most popular songs in the world right now, including “Bandido” and “La Nota.” Colombian R&B singer Karol G, has one of the five most popular videos on YouTube with “Bichota,” while her fiancé, Puerto Rican rapper Anuel AA, has two top 100 hits of his own.

Latin artists constitute more than 30% of the 50 most popular acts on YouTube, the site said. These acts benefit from collaborating on enough songs that they appear multiple times in the charts. Anuel AA has songs in the top 100 with two fellow Puerto Ricans, Ozuna and Rauw Alejandro.

Streaming services like to talk about how they connect people from different parts of the world, facilitating cultural exchange. But even in the early years of streaming services that exchange was one way: spreading acts from the U.S. and Western Europe to other places. Early users of Spotify in foreign markets lived in big cities and were likely to speak English.

But in just the three years since Spotify went public, the U.S. and European share of its subscriber base has declined by 9%. Most of that growth has come from rest of world — markets such as India and Southeast Asia. The Korean pop band BTS has appeared in the top 25 almost every month, thanks to a steady stream of new releases and their popularity across Asia.

While Latin music is the top genre on YouTube and Spotify, the world’s two most popular music services, that may change as usage continues to grow across Asia.

K-pop isn’t just popular in Korea. It has become the default pop in Southeast Asia as well. BTS, No. 8 in the rankings this month, has more listeners in Japan, Indonesia, India and the Philippines than it does in South Korea.

Speaking of India, that country is now the largest market for YouTube. And the most popular song on that platform in the last month has been “52 GAJ KA Daman,” a track by Renuka Panwar in the regional language Haryanvi. Fresh off the song’s success, Warner Music Group announced a distribution deal with the record label that released the song.

Spotify is adding 6 million customers a month, and less than 1 million of those new customers hail from the U.S.