Streaming Music Strides Past Digital Sales

According to Nielsen, streaming music hit an all-time high in 2016, surpassing U.S. digital music sales entirely. This is the first time in history, according to the media research firm.

“2016 showed us that the landscape is evolving even more quickly than we have seen with other format shifts,” said David Bakula, senior vice president of industry insights at Nielsen Music.

Streaming platforms Apple Music, Google Play, Spotify, Pandora and Amazon Music are in higher demand than ever — escalating by 76 percent over last year — with Americans listening to more than 431 billion songs last year. The competition in the music streaming space has gotten tighter. Apple launched its music streaming service to rival Swedish giant Spotify at its developers’ conference in June 2015. But Apple Music and Spotify are à la carte services that cost around $10 a month. Amazon Music, on the other hand, comes part and parcel with Amazon’s Prime program. And most recently, Bloomberg reported that SiriusXM has approached Pandora Media’s board yet again for the second time this year to acquire the Internet radio firm.

But as for Nielsen’s report, the genres leading the streaming music pack are hip-hop and R&B, while the artists taking the reins are Drake, The Weeknd, Kanye West and Rihanna. And, interestingly, there are only a handful of songs that lead the charge and were specifically chosen 500 million times on users’ streaming devices. Two of those songs? Desiiigner’s “Panda,” and Rihanna’s “Work.”

Meanwhile, in terms of other music consumption, digital sales grew only by 3 percent.

Singer Drake arguably benefitted the most from the streaming services, with more than 5.4 billion streams, and had the highest-listened-to album of the year. His success was followed by Adele — whose album 25 was a bestseller in both 2015 and 2016 — and Prince, whose passing away in April generated more than 2.2 million album sale units, with more than 1 million of those selling the day after his death.

At the same time, vinyl has seen a surprising change, of course, hitting its highest sales of more than 13 million units last year. It’s a continuous trend spanning 11 years now.


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