Streaming music services are going full steam ahead
The music industry continues to move headlong into a streaming future, according to Nielsen Music’s annual midyear report of listening habits.
The recently published report shows that music-streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and others delivered 184.3 billion on-demand audio streams, up from 113.5 billion during the same period a year ago, an increase of 62 percent.
Buoyed by the success of artists such as Drake, Future, Ed Sheeran and the release of Taylor Swift’s back catalog to major streaming platforms, the services surpassed a milestone in March, when more than 7 billion songs were accessed.
But music streaming’s success came at a cost: total album sales (purchased downloads and physical albums) declined by 18 percent, which was hastened by a 24 percent drop in digital track sales and a 20 percent drop in digital album sales. That number stands to reason: Why download a song when you can stream it for free on YouTube or as part of a platform subscription?
Among the winners in the first half of 2017 were British pop sensation Sheeran, Compton-bred rapper Kendrick Lamar and Puerto Rican pop star Luis Fonsi. Lamar’s recent album, Damn, was at the top of the total album consumption chart, which calculates success based on a formula involving sales and streaming numbers.
Sheeran’s song “The Shape of You” has earned the most on-demand audio streams, accumulating 354 million so far this year. Lamar’s song “Humble” followed with 345 million streams. Fonsi’s collaboration with Justin Bieber and Daddy Yankee, “Despacito,” and Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” also tallied huge numbers.
Vinyl records were winners in the first half of the year. According to music tracking company BuzzAngle, which also just released its midyear report, sales of the resurgent format increased by 20 percent over 2016, and accounted for 4.9 percent of all physical album sales. CD sales dropped by nearly 4 percent.
Record fans couldn’t get enough of The Beatles, according to Nielsen Music’s report. Their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the top seller, racking up a relatively meager 39,000 hard copies.
The soundtrack to La La Land was second, with 33,000 copies sold. Also earning sales in the category were the indie pop band Tennis’ Yours Conditionally, Prince’s Purple Rain and Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black.
Other notable calculations from BuzzAngle’s report included a breakdown of which genres are most popular across streaming platforms.
Hip-hop tracks constitute nearly 25 percent of all on-demand audio consumption, followed by pop (12.8 percent), R&B (9.3 percent) and country (7.2 percent).
When fans listen to albums, though, they continue to look to the past for the majority of their music. According to BuzzAngle’s report, 51 percent of streams in 2017 have been for old catalog titles, compared with 12 percent for new music.
Drake, pictured here in June at the NBA Awards, is the most popular streaming artist in the United States today, with 3.7 billion spins (including audio and video). Coming in second is Future (2.65 billion), followed by Kendrick Lamar (2.35 billion).