Nielsen Music unveiled its third-quarter report for the nine-month period ending September 28, once again demonstrating the powerful effect streaming has had on the record business.
Weekly on-demand audio streams for the week of September 28 surpassed 8.3 billion, the highest single-week total to date. On-demand audio streams have topped 287 billion streams so far this year, a 59.4% increase over the same time period in 2016. This increase in audio streaming volume has produced gains in total audio consumption, which is up 10% over last year. (Consumption breakdown: Track-Equivalent Albums (TEA) means 10 downloaded tracks equal one album; Streaming-Equivalent Albums (SEA) means 1,500 streams equal one album.) Overall on-demand streams (including video) have surpassed 442 billion streams this year, an increase of 40.4% over the same period in 2016. Total music consumption (Albums + TEA + On-Demand SEA) is up by 11.1% vs. the same period last year.
The boost in streaming has meant a drop on the physical/download/ownership side, with overall album sales down 18.3% for the nine months, album sales +TEA off 19.6%, digital album sales plummeting 19.5% and digital track sales crashing 23.1%, along with physical album sales, including CD and vinyl, down 17.3%. The one exception is millennials’ continuing love affair with vinyl albums, up 3.1% and now representing 14% of all physical album purchases — an all-time high in the post-CD era.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee (featuring Justin Bieber)’s bilingual smash, “Despacito,” is the biggest song of the year in terms of total song consumption (digital song sales plus streaming equivalent on-demand audio) with 5.9 million units. The song topped 1.1 billion streams, the most streamed on both audio (516.8 million) and video (598.5 million) platforms. It also dominated the digital song chart, with nearly 2.5 downloads through September 28. Other big sellers include Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” (5.3 million units, which includes 2.4 million downloads and 432 million audio streams) and Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” (4.2 million).
Lamar’s “Damn.” is the leading album in total volume so far this year with total activity of more than 2.3 million units (albums, TEA and audio on-demand streaming equivalent albums combined), followed by Ed Sheeran’s “Divide” (2.1 million) and Drake’s “More Life” (2 million).
The Nielsen report also highlighted the increasing importance of playlisting at streaming services, with nearly three-quarters of those who stream music in the U.S. create online playlists. More than half of all music listeners create playlists by selecting tracks across genres and artists, and 32% share their lists with others, up from 24% in 2016. Of those who stream music online, 74% reported engaging with playlists in some form and 38% of those surveyed agree that playlists are an important part of their streaming experience.
Other insights reveal that terrestrial radio continues as the primary source of music discovery in the U.S., with 72% of American online music streamers tuned in. In addition, 37% of music listeners say that one of the things they enjoy most about traditional radio are the DJs. Finally, research discovered 55% of all music listeners on social media follow or stay informed about their favorite artists.