The IFPI’s annual report looked at the record industry’s efforts to improve diversity and representation in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests last summer.
BTS were the world’s biggest act, marking the first time a South Korean band has topped the global chart.
They even dethroned the queen Taylor Swift, while Drake came third – despite not releasing a new album in 2020.
The report follows moves in the industry to better support the black community, with initiatives such as #BlackoutTuesday, prompted by George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter campaign.
The recorded music industry made $21.6bn (£15.7bn) last year, the highest figure since 2002.
Revenues grew by 7.4%, driven by the success of artists like Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift and Drake in the charts.
BTS had the best-selling album, Map Of The Soul: 7; while The Weeknd’s retro-pop anthem Blinding Lights was the biggest single, shifting 2.7bn copies.
Streaming sites like Spotify and Apple Music accounted for 62.1% of all revenues, reaching $13.4bn (£9 102 million people signed up for a new account last year, compared to 85 million in 2019, and 79 million in 2018..7bn).
BTS had two of the year’s top 10 best-selling records, led by Map Of The Soul: 7, which fans bought or downloaded 4.8 million times.
Their fifth album, Be, which was recorded in response to the coronavirus pandemic, was the fourth biggest-seller, on 2.69 million copies; while the Japanese-language Map Of The Soul: 7 – The Journey, sold 1.17 million.
The IFPI’s figures are exclusive of live music revenue, which is the sector of the industry most affected by the pandemic. However, the royalties earned when music is played on radio, TV or in concert – were counted, and declined by 10.1% to $2.3bn (£1.7bn).
While British pop star Dua Lipa enjoyed a similar boost from her ambitious Studio 2054 live stream in November, Lewis Capaldi’s Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent was the UK’s biggest-selling album for the second year in a row.
“The challenge is to keep the work going long after it is politically expedient, sexy and at the forefront of people’s minds,” said Warner Music’s head of diversity and inclusion, Dr Maurice Stinnett.
In wake of the Black Lives Matter campaign, record labels dropped outdated words like “urban” from their repertoire. Some bands like Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum changed their names because of associations with slavery. Internally, many companies launched taskforces to help identify and develop female, black and underrepresented executives within their ranks.
“When it’s no longer a hot button, that’s when we continue to do the work that desperately needs to be done,” stressed Stinnett.
It is hoped that live music will resume this summer, depending on the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine; but the IFPI’s annual report highlighted how live streams and virtual concerts had helped musicians reach fans over the last 12 months.