Music Consumption Registers Strong Uptick in 2018, Driven Again by Streaming

January 25, 2019

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Industries | Media & Entertainment

The term “streaming” often evokes video players such as Netflix or Hulu. But streaming has also upended the music industry, with continued growth in on-demand audio and video streams powering a healthy increase in music consumption, according to Nielsen’s year-end music consumption figures for 2018.

Here are some key takeaways on the consumption of recorded music this past year in the US.

Driven by Streaming, Total Music Consumption Once Again Increases

Total recorded music consumption was up by 23% from 2017 according to Nielsen’s figures.

Total consumption is measured as the combination of album sales, track equivalent album (TEA) sales, and on-demand audio/video streaming equivalent albums (SEAs). TEAs refer to the sale of music downloads or singles (a TEA is equal to 10 tracks), while SEAs account for streaming services, with 1,500 SEAs equal to one album.

Once again, streaming was a driver of increased music consumption, just as it was in 2017. The total number of combined on-demand audio and video streams grew by 43% to more than 900 billion streams. For audio alone, the volume of on-demand streams reached 611 billion in 2018, a 49% increase year-over-year.

Although purchases of digital audio are in decline, digital audio consumption (digital albums + track equivalent albums + on-demand audio streaming equivalent albums) has risen 34%.

Meanwhile, even as the music industry has shifted to digital, there continues to be a bright spot in the renaissance of vinyl. Nielsen reports that vinyl sales have continued to rise, with a 15% year-over-year increase in 2018.

Top 5 Music Trends of 2018

Previous research has illustrated the most popular formats for radio listeners, with adult contemporary and country leading the way.

For those interested in the artists and styles making an impact on consumers, Nielsen identified five notable trends in what was popular over the past year.

Latin Music Takes Over

Songs like “I Like It” by Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J. Balvin, which topped the Hot 100 charts in both on-demand streams (873 million audio and video streams) and airplay (531,000 airplay spins), has pushed Latin music into the mainstream.

Drake Has A Spectacular Year

Rapper/musician Drake made a huge splash on the charts in 2018. His album Scorpion had a record number of on-demand audio streams (742.9 million) in the first week of its release and his single “God’s Plan” boasted a total of 562,000 airplay spins in 2018.

The Return of Women

Female artists like Ariana Grande, Cardi B and Bebe Rexha helped keep women at the top of the charts more in 2018 than a year earlier. Women as the lead or featured artist spent 18 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 (up from 8 in 2017). Even more impressively, women topped the Hot 100 Airplay charts a total of 39 weeks (up from 6 weeks last year).

Soundtracks Score Big

The soundtrack for The Greatest Showman was the only album to sell more than a million copies (1.5 million) in 2018. Other soundtracks such as Black Panther and A Star is Born helped soundtracks make an impact on the charts this past year.

K-POP is on the Rise

Korean act BTS saw its album Love Yourself debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 with 185,000 equivalent album units (the number of physical and digital albums that were sold and the total number of album equivalent songs from downloads and song streaming volume). This, along with the Billboard Hot 100 success of BLACKPINK and EXO’s album Don’t Mess Up My Tempo debuting at number 23 on the Billboard 200, K-Pop is finding success in the US.

To read more about the state of music in the US, visit Nielsen’s findings here.

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