Mid-Year US Music Report: Streaming, Vinyl and Taylor Swift Rule

From Rolling Stone

Nielsen Music reveals streaming totals have exploded while albums sales, both physical and digital, are down

Taylor Swift, vinyl records and streaming lead Nielsen Music’s mid-year report Carrie Davenport/TAS Getty Images Entertainment

Nielsen Music has revealed their mid-year report, and six months into 2015, streaming and vinyl sales are up over their 2014 numbers while overall album sales – both digital and physical – are down. The past few months have seen Tidal and the relaunched Apple Music entering the world of streaming, and there’s a reason why so many services are vying for streaming supremacy: Since the beginning of 2015, audio streaming is up 74 percent compared to the same period in 2014, while video streaming has grown an eye-popping 109 percent. From December 29th to June 28th, over 135 billion songs were streamed, the Nielsen report states.

Because of the outbreak in streaming, traditional album sales continue to decline: Compact disc sales are down another 10 percent, while digital downloads have decreased by just 0.1 percent; industry-wide, traditional album sales have fallen by 4 percent over 2014’s totals. However, while CDs and mp3s dip, vinyl records have seen an impressive jump in 2015 with a gain of 38 percent over the same period in 2014, further proving last year’s totals weren’t an aberration. The vinyl trend, along with Record Store Day promotions, has also helped independent music shops boast an 0.6 percent increase in sales while their chain (down 6.8 percent) and mass merchant (down 18.2 percent) competitors have struggled.

Thanks to the emergence of streaming, “overall album consumption” – a figure that calculates traditional album sales, track equivalent album sales (TEAs) and streaming equivalent album sales (SEAs) – is up 14 percent, even as traditional album sales and digital track sales stumble.

Six months into 2015, only one album has sold over one million copies so far: Taylor Swift‘s 1989, which added 1.3 million copies in 2015 to its already-impressive 2014 haul. In addition to selling the most CDs in 2015, 1989 has also been the year’s top-selling vinyl, moving 33,500 LPs as well. (Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell finished second with 31,700 copies; Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon also landed on the vinyl top 10.)

Drake‘s retail mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is also on the precipice of platinum with 965,000 copies sold. (Drake’s album also beat out 1989 for the crown of top-selling digital release.) Of the 2015 releases, only the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly are within reach of one million copies with 727,000 and 627,000 copies sold respectively.

On the singles front, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” has led the charge with 4.8 million digital downloads. However, that number pales in comparison to the amount of times that single has been streamed: Combined audio and video streams of “Uptown Funk” have nearly reached the 368 million mark. The track was also been a favorite among radio programmers, racking up 646,000 plays in 2015 so far.

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