Nielsen Music's First-Quarter Numbers: Explosive Growth for Streaming, Not So Much for Vinyl

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Ed Sheeran photographed on March 12, 2017. 

On-demand streaming continued to enjoy explosive growth in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2017, offsetting declines in physical and digital sales. According to Nielsen Music (formerly SoundScan), on-demand streaming climbed 35.2 percent in Q1 to 133.9 billion streams, up from 99.1 billion in the corresponding first three months of 2016. That breaks out to 86.1 billion audio on-demand streams, versus 51.65 billion in the same period last year.

As for video-on-demand, streams during the quarter were up only slightly to 47.8 billion, versus 47.4 billion in 2016. (However, that is not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison because at some point during Q2 of last year, YouTube stopped reporting streams of tracks that don't attract 1,000 views a day.)

This explosive growth in streaming comes after 2016's overall increase of 39.2 percent to 432 billion on-demand streams from 2015's 310 billion, as recorded by Nielsen Music.

Programmed streaming also enjoyed robust growth, growing to 3.1 billion streams in the first quarter of 2017, versus 2.08 billion, a 49.2 percent increase in the same time frame in 2016. However, those numbers do not include Pandora, which doesn't report to Nielsen.

The top on-demand streamed song so far this year is Migos' "Bad and Boujee," featuring Lil Uzi Vert, with 464.7 billion views for audio and video. Meanwhile, the overall No. 1 album so far this year is Ed Sheeran's ÷ with 1.1 million equivalent album units to date.

Moving over to sales, Sheeran's "Shape Of You" is the No. 1 selling song with 1.58 million downloads, while his ÷ (Divide) album holds top seller status with with 503,000 scans.

Meanwhile, the sales model continues to be under attack in the U.S., with physical album sales falling 21.2 percent to 22.66 million units from 28.77 million in the first quarter of 2016; digital albums were down 18.9 percent to 17.7 million units from 21.8 million units; and digital tracks were down 23.8 percent to 158.4 million units from 207.9 million. Looking at the data by configuration, overall albums totaled 40.3 million in the first quarter, down from 50.7 million in the same period in 2016, and that represents a decline of 20.2 percent.

Overall, on a consumption basis of albums plus track equivalent ones (TEA) and on-demand equivalent ones (SEA), the U.S. industry enjoyed 5.9 percent overall growth to 145.5 million units, up from 137.4 albums plus SEA and TEA units in the first quarter of 2016.

Looking at sales by format, the CD fell 23.4 percent to 19.6 million units from 25.5 million copies in 2016's Q1. Meanwhile, vinyl, which has averaged 38 percent annual growth from 2012 through 2015, slowed to 10 percent growth last year and so far in the first quarter is down 100,000 units, or 3.2 percent, to 3.01 million units in the first quarter of 2017. Consequently, some wonder if the format has peaked -- or is the downturn merely due to the release schedule cycles?

Nevertheless, the top sellers seem quite resilient in the vinyl format, as the La La Land soundtrack has already scanned 25,000 units, and 266,000 overall since its release in December.

TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2017 TO DATE IN U.S., BY TOTAL EQUIVALENT ALBUM UNITS

RankArtist, TitleLabelTotal Units
1Ed Sheeran, ÷Atlantic/AG1,100,000
2Drake, More LifeYoung Money/Cash Money/Republic832,000
3The Weeknd, StarboyXO/Republic651,000
4Migos, CultureQuality Control/300/AG618,000
5Bruno Mars, 24K MagicAtlantic/AG604,000
6Big Sean, I Decided.G.O.O.D./Def Jam484,000
7Moana SoundtrackWalt Disney439,000
8Future, FutureA-1/Freebandz/Epic386,000
9Trolls SoundtrackVilla 40/DreamWorks/RCA386,000
10Metallica, Hardwired...To Self-DestructBlackened382,000
Source: Nielsen Music, for the tracking period Dec. 30, 2016 through March 30, 2017.

 

TOP 10 DIGITAL SONGS OF 2017 TO DATE IN U.S., BY TOTAL SALES

RankArtist, TitleLabelYTD Sales
1Ed Sheeran, "Shape of You"Atlantic/AG1,584,000
2Zayn, Taylor Swift, "I Don't Wanna Live Forever"Universal Studios/RCA/Big Machine/Republic928,000
3Bruno Mars, "That's What I Like"Atlantic/AG620,000
4Migos feat. Lil Uzi Vert, "Bad and Boujee"Quality Control/300556,000
5Sam Hunt, "Body Like a Back Road"MCA Nashville/UMGN546,000
6Lady Gaga, "Million Reasons"Streamline/Interscope/IGA542,000
7Bruno Mars, "24K Magic"Atlantic/AG521,000
8The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk, "I Feel It Coming"XO/Republic499,000
9The Chainsmokers, "Paris"Disruptor/Columbia466,000
10Shawn Mendes, "Mercy"Island463,000
Source: Nielsen Music, for the tracking period Dec. 30, 2016 through March 30, 2017.

 

TOP 10 VINYL ALBUMS OF 2017 TO DATE IN U.S., BY TOTAL SALES

RankArtist, TitleLabelYTD Sales
1La La Land SoundtrackSummit/Interscope/IGA25,000
2Bob Marley and The Wailers, LegendTuff Gong/Island/UMe16,000
3Amy Winehouse, Back to BlackRepublic16,000
4Ed Sheeran, ÷Atlantic/AG15,000
5Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 3Run The Jewels14,000
6The Killers, Hot FussIsland14,000
7The Beatles, Abbey RoadApple/Capitol/UMe13,000
8Ryan Adams, PrisonerPAX.AM/Blue Note13,000
9Twenty One Pilots, BlurryfaceFueled By Ramen/AG13,000
10The xx, I See YouYoung Turks13,000
Source: Nielsen Music, for the tracking period Dec. 30, 2016 through March 30, 2017.

 

TOP 10 ON-DEMAND STREAMING SONGS OF 2017 TO DATE IN U.S., BY TOTAL STREAMS

RankArtist, TitleLabelYTD on-demand
1Migos feat. Lil Uzi Vert, "Bad and Boujee"Quality Control/300464.7 billion
2Ed Sheeran, "Shape of You"Atlantic/AG378.9b
3Big Sean, "Bounce Back"G.O.O.D./Def Jam210.8b
4Kyle feat. Lil Yachty, "iSpy"Indie-Pop/Quality Control/Motown/Capitol/Atlantic199.5b
5The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk, "Starboy"XO/Republic196.8b
6Rae Sremmurd feat. Gucci Mane, "Black Beatles"Ear Drummer/Interscope192.6b
7The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey, "Closer"COL191.6b
8Zayn, Taylor Swift, "I Don't Wanna Live Forever"Universal Studios/RCA/Big Machine/Republic185b
9Migos, "T-Shirt"Quality Control/300182.3b
10Kodak Black, "Tunnel Vision"Dollaz N Dealz/Atlantic173.7b
Source: Nielsen Music, for the tracking period Dec. 30, 2016 through March 30, 2017.

April 7 (11:30 a.m.): This story has been updated.