2020 Grammys

'Hollywood's Bleeding' Is Nielsen Music/MRC Data's Top Album of 2019, 'Old Town Road' Most-Streamed Song

Adam Degross
Post Malone

Plus: Album equivalent audio music consumption increased 11.4%, on-demand streams cross 1 trillion mark for first time & vinyl album sales hit a Nielsen-era high (again!).

Post Malone closed out 2019 with the most popular album of the year in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data. The data-tracking company reports that the genre-blending artist’s Hollywood’s Bleeding effort, his third release, earned 3.001 million equivalent album units during the year, with 357,000 of that sum coming from album sales.

2019 marks the fourth year in a row where Nielsen Music/MRC Data’s top album was by a male artist. In 2018, Drake's Scorpion was Nielsen Music’s biggest album, earning 3.91 million units. Ed Sheeran's ÷ (Divide) was tops in 2017 (with 2.76 million units), Drake’s Views led in 2016 (4.14 million units) and Adele's 25 ruled in 2015 (8.01 million units).

Hollywood’s Bleeding’s 3.001 million equivalent album units is a multi-metric consumption total, which includes album sales, on-demand audio streaming equivalent album units (SEA), and track equivalent album units (TEA). The multi-metric formula is also used to compile the weekly Billboard 200 albums chart, which ranks the most popular albums of the week in the U.S. In 2019, one equivalent album unit equaled: one album sale; or one SEA unit (1,250 paid subscription or 3,750 ad-supported on-demand audio streams of tracks from an album), or one TEA unit (10 digital tracks sold from an album).

Nielsen Music/MRC Data’s 2019 tracking year ran from Jan. 4, 2019 through Jan. 2, 2020. Due to a quirk in the calendar, there were 53 weeks in 2018, instead of the usual 52. So, for 2019 volume comparisons to 2018, a corresponding 52-week period is used by Nielsen Music for 2018: Jan. 5, 2018 through Jan. 3, 2019. (Historical references to volume in 2017 and earlier years used the traditional 52-week period as stated in earlier Billboard stories.)

Numbers in this story are rounded. Nielsen Music began electronically tracking sales and data in 1991 (so a reference in this story to the “Nielsen Music era” means from 1991 to the present). In December 2019, Nielsen Music was acquired by Valence Media, Billboard’s parent company, as the anchor unit for the company’s newly established MRC Data division.

Hollywood’s Bleeding was a monster in terms of streaming activity in 2019, garnering 2.452 million in SEA units (which translates to 3.371 billion on-demand audio streams for the set’s songs in 2019). Hollywood’s Bleeding is also by far the most-streamed album of the year in terms of total audio on-demand song streams, and the only set to cross 3 billion streams for its tracks in 2019.

Hollywood’s Bleeding notched Post Malone his second No. 1 on the weekly Billboard 200 chart, and has ruled the tally for five non-consecutive weeks. Post Malone previously logged a No. 1 on the chart with his second album, 2018’s beerbongs & bentleys.

Hollywood’s Bleeding contains five songs that hit the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart: “Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse),” a co-billed collaboration with Swae Lee (No. 1 for one week); “Wow.” (No. 2); “Goodbyes,” featuring Young Thug (No. 3); “Take What You Want,” featuring Ozzy Osbourne and Travis Scott (No. 8) and “Circles” (No. 1 for three weeks).

TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2019 IN U.S., BY TOTAL EQUIVALENT ALBUM UNITS

RankArtist, TitleTotal UnitsAlbum SalesTEA UnitsSEA Units
1Post Malone, Hollywood's Bleeding3,001,000357,000192,0002,452,000
2Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?2,518,000676,000123,0001,719,000
3Taylor Swift, Lover2,191,0001,085,000103,0001,003,000
4Ariana Grande, Thank U, Next2,056,000279,00096,0001,681,000
5Khalid, Free Spirit1,587,000226,00074,0001,287,000
6Post Malone, beerbongs & bentleys1,380,00085,00049,0001,246,000
7Lil Nas X, 71,306,00012,000169,0001,125,000
8Drake, Scorpion1,249,00051,00027,0001,171,000
9Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born (Soundtrack)1,213,000486,000152,000575,000
10Travis Scott, Astroworld1,201,00054,00030,0001,117,000

Source: Nielsen Music/MRC Data, for the tracking period Jan. 4, 2019 through Jan. 2, 2020

Post Malone lands two albums in the year-end top 10 albums tally, as beerbongs & bentleys ranks at No. 6 with 1.38 million units. A year ago, he also had two albums in the year-end top 10 roundup, as beerbongs placed at No. 2, while his debut studio effort Stoney was No. 10.

Also in the 2019 year-end top five: Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (No. 2, 2.518 million units), Taylor Swift’s Lover (No. 3, 2.191 million), Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next (No. 4, 2.056 million) and Khalid’s Free Spirit (No. 5, 1.587 million).

ALBUM EQUIVALENT AUDIO CONSUMPTION CLIMBS 11.4%: Album equivalent audio consumption in 2019 increased 11.4%, rising to 677.97 million units (up from 618.04 million). Those figures blend album sales, TEA units and SEA units from on-demand audio streams.

R&B/HIP-HOP IS KING: R&B/hip-hop music continued to dominate all other genres in terms of consumption, as it did in 2018. In 2019, the genre represented 27.4% of album equivalent audio consumption – the largest of any genre. In second place for 2019 was rock music, with 21.3% of the market.

‘LOVER’ RULES IN SALES: Taylor Swift’s Lover was the top-selling album of 2019, with 1.09 million copies sold. It also marks the only album to sell a million copies during the year. In 2018, there was also just one album to surpass the million sales mark: The Greatest Showman soundtrack (with 1.49 million). 2019 marks just the second year in the Nielsen Music era where there was only one album that sold 1 million copies. It only previous happened in 2018, with The Greatest Showman.

In 2019, just two albums sold at least 500,000 copies: Lover and Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep (676,000). In 2018, there were also just two half-million sellers (Showman, and Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born soundtrack, with 704,000).

Swift has now earned the top-selling album of the year four times. In addition to Lover in 2019, she also finished with the best-seller in 2017 (reputation, 1.9 million), 2014 (1989, 3.66 million) and 2009 (Fearless, 3.22 million).

TOP 10 SELLING ALBUMS OF 2019 IN U.S.

RankArtist, TitleSales
1Taylor Swift, Lover1,085,000
2Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?676,000
3Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born (Soundtrack)486,000
4Jonas Brothers, Happiness Begins469,000
5Harry Styles, Fine Line458,000
6BTS, Map of the Soul: Persona454,000
7Tool, Fear Inoculum388,000
8Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody (Soundtrack)366,000
9Post Malone, Hollywood's Bleeding357,000
10The Beatles, Abbey Road333,000

Source: Nielsen Music, for the tracking period Jan. 4, 2019 through Jan. 2, 2020.

ALBUM SALES DROP 18.7%: Overall album sales, across all formats (CD, digital album, vinyl LP, cassettes, etc.) fell by 18.7% to 112.75 million copies. It’s the fourth year in a row where album sales fell by at least 10%. Album sales dropped 17.7% in 2018, 17.7% in 2017, 16.7% in 2016, 6% in 2015, and 11% in 2014. Album sales last posted a yearly gain in 2011, when volume was up by 1.3%.

Physical album sales (CD, vinyl, cassette, etc.) in 2019 decreased by 15% to 73.5 million. CD album sales comprised 54.19 million of that sum (down 22.1%). The CD format is still the leading format for album purchases, while the digital format is in second-place with 39.3 million digital albums sold in 2019 (down 24.9%).

Swift’s Lover was the top-selling physical album (699,000) and the top selling digital format album (386,000).

Lover was also the top-selling album on the CD format (647,000). The top-selling vinyl LP was The Beatles’ Abbey Road (246,000).

VINYL VICTORY: For the 14th consecutive year, vinyl album sales grew to a new yearly high, climbing to 18.84 million sold in 2019 (up 14.5%).

Impressively, vinyl LP sales represented 16.7% of all album sales in 2019. In 2018, the format accounted for 11.9% of all album sales.

Further, vinyl LPs comprised over a quarter of all physical album sales (CD, vinyl LP, cassettes, etc.) in 2019 — 25.6%. That’s a new Nielsen Music-era record share for the format, up from 19.1% in 2018.

Overall, there were 23 albums that sold at least 50,000 copies on vinyl in 2019 – up from 14 titles in 2018, and eight titles in 2017.

In the Nielsen Music era, of the top 10 largest selling weeks for vinyl albums in total, five of them occurred in 2019. Further, the top two biggest vinyl weeks came this past December: 973,000 sold in the week ending Dec. 19, and 1.24 million sold in the week ending Dec. 26.

TOP 10 SELLING VINYL ALBUMS OF 2019 IN U.S.

RankArtist, TitleSales
1The Beatles, Abbey Road246,000
2Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?176,000
3Queen, Greatest Hits139,000
4Soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1123,000
5Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody (Soundtrack)108,000
6Beach Boys, Sounds of Summer: The Very Best Of…107,000
7Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon92,000
8Michael Jackson, Thriller88,000
9Bob Marley and The Wailers, Legend: The Best Of…84,000
10Fleetwood Mac, Rumours78,000

Source: Nielsen Music/MRC Data, for the tracking period Jan. 4, 2019 through Jan. 2, 2020.

‘OLD TOWN,’ RECORD STREAMS: Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” easily gallops away as the most-streamed song of 2019, with a stunning 2.5 billion on-demand streams (audio and video combined). The track, which was originally released as a solo effort by Lil Nas X, was greatly enhanced by a later-issued remix featuring Billy Ray Cyrus. All versions of the song (including other alternative versions with RM of BTS, Young Thug and Mason Ramsey, and a Diplo-helmed remix) are combined into the 2.5 billion figure.

“Old Town Road” also makes history as the first song to exceed more than 2 billion on-demand streams in a calendar year. Previously, the most-streamed tune of any calendar year was Drake’s “God’s Plan,” with 1.566 billion streams tallied in 2018.

“Old Town Road” was also 2019’s most-streamed in terms of audio-only on-demand streams (1.002 billion) and video-only on-demand streams (1.498 billion).

Overall on-demand streams (audio and video combined) grew by 29.3% in 2019, surpassing the 1 trillion mark for the first time in a calendar year. In total for 2019, there were 1.147 trillion on-demand streams registered. Of that sum, 745.75 billion were in on-demand audio streams (up 23.8%) and 401.23 billion were in on-demand video streams (up 40.7%).

The R&B/hip-hop genre continued to hold the largest share in terms of on-demand streams, as compared to all other genres. R&B/hip-hop streams accounted for 30.7% of all on-demand streams in 2019 – up from 29.7% in 2018. The second-largest genres in 2019 were rock and pop, each with a 14.7% slice of the on-demand streaming market.

TOP 10 MOST STREAMED SONGS OF 2019 IN U.S., ON-DEMAND AUDIO & VIDEO COMBINED

RankArtist, TitleStreams
1Lil Nas X, "Old Town Road"2,499,608,000
2Post Malone & Swae Lee, "Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)"1,474,828,000
3Billie Eilish, "Bad Guy"1,294,072,000
4Ariana Grande, "7 Rings"1,129,767,000
5Pinkfong, "Baby Shark"980,514,000
6Travis Scott, "Sicko Mode"962,144,000
7Lil Tecca, "Ran$om"959,093,000
8Halsey, "Without Me"939,993,000
9Post Malone, "Wow."918,382,000
10J. Cole, "Middle Child"859,521,000

Source: Nielsen Music/MRC Data, for the tracking period Jan. 4, 2019 through Jan. 2, 2020.

TOP 10 ON-DEMAND STREAMS OF 2019 IN U.S., AUDIO-ONLY

RankArtist, TitleStreams
1Lil Nas X, "Old Town Road"1,001,658,000
2Post Malone & Swae Lee, "Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse")800,726,000
3Post Malone, "Wow."644,384,000
4Billie Eilish, "Bad Guy"595,891,000
5J. Cole, "Middle Child"578,272,000
6Ariana Grande, "7 Rings"575,880,000
7Lil Tecca, "Ran$om"536,291,000
8Lizzo, "Truth Hurts"511,930,000
9Meek Mill featuring Drake, "Going Bad"495,391,000
10Halsey, "Without Me"478,006,000

Source: Nielsen Music/MRC Data, for the tracking period Jan. 4, 2019 through Jan. 2, 2020.

TOP 10 ON-DEMAND STREAMS OF 2019 IN U.S., VIDEO-ONLY

RankArtist, TitleStreams
1Lil Nas X, "Old Town Road"1,497,950,000
2Pinkfong, "Baby Shark"783,943,000
3Billie Eilish, "Bad Guy"698,181,000
4Post Malone & Swae Lee, "Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)"674,102,000
5Ariana Grande, "7 Rings"553,887,000
6Travis Scott, "Sicko Mode"532,728,000
7Marshmello & Bastille, "Happier"498,511,000
8Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Dogg, "The Next Episode"484,782,000
9Halsey, "Without Me"461,987,000
10Blueface, "Thotiana"442,395,000

Source: Nielsen Music/MRC Data, for the tracking period Jan. 4, 2019 through Jan. 2, 2020.

DIGITAL DIP: For the seventh year in a row, overall digital song sales fell. In 2019, there was a total of 301.08 million digital songs sold – a decline of 25% as compared to 2018. From 2004 through 2012, digital song sales grew yearly. The biggest year for the format was in 2012, when 1.336 billion songs were sold.

The top-selling digital song of 2019 was Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” with 1.536 million downloads sold. It was the only tune to surpass 1 million in download sales. A year ago, there were three million-sellers.

TOP 10 SELLING DIGITAL SONGS OF 2019 IN U.S.

RankArtist, TitleSales
1Lil Nas X, "Old Town Road"1,536,000
2Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper, "Shallow"832,000
3Lizzo, "Truth Hurts"686,000
4Post Malone & Swae Lee, "Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)"668,000
5Billie Eilish, "Bad Guy"577,000
6Blake Shelton, "God's Country"513,000
7Jonas Brothers, "Sucker"511,000
8Lewis Capaldi, "Someone You Loved"501,000
9Ariana Grande, "7 Rings"476,000
10Halsey, "Without Me"471,000

Source: Nielsen Music/MRC Data, for the tracking period Jan. 4, 2019 through Jan. 2, 2020.


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