In YPulse’s recent Music Report, we told you all about how young Europeans’ music consumption and discovery habits are shifting, how they turn to music for their mental health, and the fact that many are eager to spend their money on music experiences. Another trend is that now the majority of young Europeans listen to music on social media, and TikTok—European Gen Z’s most used social media platform—has increasingly become a seedbed for viral hits and music’s new superstars.
With an artist’s fame and song’s ubiquity no longer dictated by the Top 40, understanding who Gen Z and Millennials now count as their favorite musicians may not be as straightforward as it once was. In our recent Music Report survey, we asked 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe the open-end question “Who is your favorite celebrity in music?”As we’ve seen in North America, their answers were incredibly varied, with over 2,400 artists and bands mentioned overall. Their responses reflect the increasing fragmentation of fame, and the fact that they have access to more sources of music discovery than any generation before them. But there are still some stand out music superstars, as we know, and these are the artists that received the most mentions:
Their Favorite Music Celebrities
- Ed Sheeran
- Michael Jackson
- Queen / Freddie Mercury
- Harry Styles
- Lady Gaga
- Taylor Swift
- Bad Bunny
- Imagine Dragons
- Ariana Grande
Overall, global music superstars top the ranking
Some of the usual suspects—i.e. the world’s biggest pop stars—do dominate young Europeans’ top 15 favorite artists, including Lady Gaga, BTS, Drake, Ariana Grande, Beyoncé, and more, all of whom also made it onto the list of North Americans’ favorite musicians. Eminem was already on the ranking last year but now he is taking the number-one spot among European Gen Z and Millennials, thanks to mostly on a huge Millennials fan base. Behind Eminem is U.K. megastar Ed Sheeran, and while Sheeran’s biggest fanbase is in his home country and the rest of Western Europe, the musician has certainly become a global celebrity, and is one of the most-followed male artists on Spotify. Sheeran has been successful at using TikTok to reach his fanbase: from live performances on the platform to collabs with influential celebs like Lil Nas X and Normani on SiriusXM’s TikTok Radio show. Sheeran also tapped into young Europeans’ love for anime and manga by teaming up with Pokemon or a new single titled “Celestial.”
Some “new” names made it to the ranking as well. Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Bad Bunny—whose presence at the Coachella 2023 lineup didn’t go unnoticed—and French rapper Ninho made it to the top 16 when they weren’t on the list last year.
But Gen Z and Millennials in Western Europe favor different artists
Looking more closely at the favorite among Gen Z and Millennials reveals that these two gens don’t consider the same artists their favorites:
Millennials are harkening back to their own childhoods in the ‘80s and ‘90s with their continued love of Queen / Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson, and Eminem. Meanwhile, the younger generation favors Harry Styles—they grew up with One Direction after all—and the artist has been very successful at staying on top of the news, from partnering with Gucci for the HA HA HA collection to starting his own gender inclusive beauty products line. Not to mention headlining a global tour in 2022 that brought together his vast fandom and that attendees turned into fashion events both in-person and on social media. The British musician now has a whopping 25M followers on Spotify. Following closely behind is BTS, the K-pop megastars who have managed to build a massive and loyal fan base around the world. YPulse’s 2018 Borderless Culture trend report explored the growing interest in K-pop, which has only grown more popular. BTS is one of the biggest bands to come out of the genre, and they’re constantly breaking streaming records—and the internet—clearly thanks to a devoted Gen Z fanbase.
But top favorite music artists vary by country as well
But when we break down young Europeans’ favorites by country, a different story emerges:
While collectively young Europeans count (mostly American-made) global megastars as their favorites, each country’s individual list is looking vastly different—and much closer to their respective homes. Ed Sheeran tops the list on his home turf in the U.K. but falls out of the top 5 in three other countries in the region. France’s four favorite artists are French, including rappers Ninho, Orelsan, Jul, and PNL. Young German consumers also favor rappers, with Eminem ranking first in the country, followed by the German-Polish rapper Mark Forster. Meanwhile, Spain’s top home-grown artists are singer and actress Aitana, and Gen-Xer David Bisbal. And though Queen and Eminem take top spots in Italy, three of the top five are Italian: rapper and influencer (and possibly politician) Fedez, Eurovision winners rock band Maneskin, and singer-songwriter Vasco Rossi.
YPulse has explored the ways that youth culture is increasingly going global—see more in our Local / Global Citizenship Report—but brands must also remember the importance of individual cultures when reaching young consumers through music. Though we’re seeing evidence that young Europeans’ affinity largely lies with American powerhouse brands and creators, it’s important to recognize the power of lesser-known and more local entities, too.