Here's Why 2016 Is Set to Be Music Industry's Best Year Since 2009

Desiigner, Justin Timberlake & Drake
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Desiigner, Justin Timberlake and Drake

Streaming continues to power a boost in album units and revenue.

For those willing to equate “total album consumption units” with good old-fashioned sales, at 411 million units in the first three quarters of 2016, the U.S. music industry appears set to enjoy its most robust year since 2009. By that metric, which combines sales with track- and streaming-equivalent units (with 10 track sales or 1,500 streams equaling one album, respectively), the industry is almost at 2013’s total of 415.4 million albums and is on track to pass 2009’s 489.8 million albums (both include TEA). 

The third quarter’s total is 5.3 percent higher than the 390.1 million units counted at the same time in 2015 -- and the RIAA’s midyear report found that on a dollar basis, the industry was up 8.1 percent over 2015 to $3.43 billion. Dividing the album-plus-TEA pie by distribution ownership, Universal Music Group remains on top but drops four percentage points to 34.7 percent from the same period in 2015, while Sony Music jumps to 28.4 percent from 27.2, and Warner rises to 21.7 percent from 19.3.

The top albums so far this year are Drake’s Views, with 3.57 million in total consumption (which includes sales, stream equivalent albums and track equivalent albums) this year, followed by Adele's 25 with 2.1 million and Beyonce’s Lemonade in third, with 2.01 million in total consumption. 

In digital song sales, Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” stands at No. 1, with 2.16 million downloads, edging out Flo Rida’s “My House" and its 2.14 million downloads.

Desiigner’s “Panda” was the most on-demand streamed song so far this year with 674.4 million streams, overtaking the half-year leader, Rihanna’s “Work,” featuring Drake, which now has 641.2 million streams. 

A version of this article first appeared in the Oct. 15 issue of Billboard.