Americans notched up 1.15tn on-demand music streams in 2019


The UK and Germany – saw annual audio music streams pass the 100bn mark in 2019: 114bn and 107bn respectively. Now, with the greatest respect, the US is telling those fellow ‘big four’ global recorded music markets to hold its beer. According to Nielsen Music’s year-end music report, the US saw on-demand music streams surpass 1tn (one trillion) for the first time.

In fact, those streams grew by 29.3% year-on-year to 1.15tn. This isn’t a direct comparison to the UK and Germany, though: Nielsen’s headline figure includes both audio and video on-demand streams. It breaks those down in its report though: on-demand audio streams grew by 23.8% to 745.7bn in the US last year, while on-demand video streams grew by 40.7% to 401.2bn.

Total album sales were down by 18.7% in the US last year according to Nielsen, but overall consumption (‘album equivalent consumption’ across audio and video streaming and sales) was up by 15%. Meanwhile, within the continued physical decline there is still an interesting story around vinyl, which now accounts for 26% of all physical sales in the US – 18.8m units in 2019, up 14.5% year-on-year.

There are other fun data-points in the Nielsen report, from Drake’s 36.3bn on-demand streams in the US over the last decade to the fact that with 2.5bn streams in 2019, ’Old Town Road’ managed to become the most-streamed track of the entire 2010s in the US, nosing ahead of the 2.4bn streams of ‘Despacito’. Also note how the ‘Old Town Road’ streams broke down: just over 1bn audio streams and nearly 1.5bn video streams.

We’re also interested in how different genres are faring over time, so we looked back at Nielsen Music’s 2017 year-end report, to see how their ‘share of total volume’ has changed. R&B / Hip-Hop has grown from 24.5% to 27.7% over the last two years; Rock has fallen from 20.8% to 19.8%; Pop has grown from 12.7% to 14%; and Country has fallen from 7.7% to 7.4%.

The surprise: Latin as a genre has fallen from 5.9% to 5.3%, despite the boom in Latin tracks. But video figures highly in that boom – Latin accounted for 14.5% of music video streams in the US in 2019 according to Nielsen – and that may be a drag on its overall share under the album equivalent consumption methodology.

The overall growth may be positive, but there are a few dark clouds too. Rolling Stone (working off the rival end-of-year report from Alpha Data – formerly BuzzAngle – which powers its charts) points to a slowdown in the growth of streaming. “Growth in on-demand streams was down nearly 30 percent from 2018, when streams saw 42 percent spike,” it reported. Meanwhile, MBW wonders whether there may be a “superstar recession” looming, using Alpha Data’s report and archives to point to a decline in the share of US streams for the biggest artists.

Stuart Dredge

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