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US on-demand audio streams up 45% year-on-year in 2018 so far


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Nielsen has published its annual mid-year report for the US music market, and while the trends it shows are unsurprising, they will nonetheless be encouraging for a market still celebrating the strong growth (in both consumption and revenues) for 2017.

The headline figures: overall consumption across physical and digital albums, songs and music videos was up 18% year-on-year in the first half of 2018. That includes a 45% rise in on-demand audio-streaming volume, and a 35% rise for on-demand video-streaming volume. In the former case, that was 268bn on-demand audio streams by the end of June.

There are some now-familiar stats to accompany this on the decline of sales as opposed to streams: total album sales – physical and digital combined – were down 17.6% to 68.8m units in the first half of this year, although within that there was room for a 19.2% spike in vinyl LP sales to 7.6m, which are thus now 11% of the US album-sales market overall. Digital track sales were down 27.4% to 223.1m, meanwhile.

More stats? The proportion of ‘current’ music to ‘catalogue’ (defined as more than 18 months old has remained fairly steady: 39.2% and 60.8% respectively in terms of overall consumption across all formats. Catalogue’s share of physical album sales is 41%, and it’s 46.3% for digital album sales, but for on-demand audio streaming it’s 39.1%.

Meanwhile, the rise of R&B / hip hop in the current environment continues: it accounted for 31% of total-album-equivalent volume in the US for the first six months of this year. Having overtaken rock as the most popular genre this time last year, R&B / hip hop’s lead has increased from 4.1 percentage points then to 8.1 percentage points now – rock’s overall share having fallen from 25.2% to 23.1% in the last 12 months.

Finally, about those concerns in recent times about the fact that men dominate the popularity lists in the current music ecosystem. Nielsen’s stats reveal that only one of the top 10 artists in the US (by overall consumption) is a woman – tenth-placed Taylor Swift. When considering pure on-demand audio streams it’s a similar story, albeit with Swift replaced by ninth-ranked Cardi B.

Drake was the most-streamed (for on-demand audio) artist in the first half of 2018 with 3.3bn US streams, although once sales are factored in, he was edged out of top spot by Post Malone.

Stuart Dredge

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