Drake's 'Views' Is Nielsen Music's Top Album of 2016 in the U.S.

Plus: Overall music consumption up 3%, on-demand streams rise by 39% & vinyl album sales hit a record high.

Drake caps a banner year, as his smash album Views finishes 2016 as the most popular release of the year in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music. The data tracking company reports that the title earned 4.14 million equivalent album units during the year -- with 1.61 million of that sum coming from traditional album sales.

The 4.14 million equivalent album units figure is a multi-metric consumption total, which includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA). 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.

(Nielsen Music’s 2016 tracking year ran from Jan. 1 through Dec. 29, 2016. Numbers in this story are rounded.)

Views spent 13 nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in 2016 and launched the No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 single “One Dance,” featuring WizKid and Kyla. The song spent 10 weeks at No. 1 between May and July and was Drake’s first No. 1 on the Hot 100 where he was the lead artist -- after two previous leaders where he was the featured guest on a track (and both were tunes by Rihanna: “Work” and “What’s My Name?”).

Views’ overall popularity was enhanced by its enormous appeal on streaming services. The set racked up 2.02 million in streaming equivalent album units in 2016 -- equaling 3.04 billion streams for the album’s tracks during the year.

Further, in the week that Views debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, the set garnered a record 245.1 million domestic on-demand streams for its tracks across all streaming services.

TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2016 IN U.S., BY TOTAL EQUIVALENT ALBUM UNITS  
RankArtist, TitleTotal UnitsAlbum SalesTEA UnitsSEA Units
1Drake, Views4,140,0001,607,000509,0002,024,000
2Adele, 252,369,0001,731,000333,000305,000
3Beyonce, Lemonade2,187,0001,554,000418,000214,000
4Rihanna, Anti1,966,000603,000420,000944,000
5Twenty One Pilots, Blurryface1,732,000738,000379,000615,000
6Justin Bieber, Purpose1,678,000554,000399,000724,000
7Chris Stapleton, Traveller1,421,0001,085,000171,000165,000
8Original Broadway Cast Recording, Hamilton: An American Musical1,327,000820,00044,000463,000
9Soundtrack, Suicide Squad: The Album1,126,000472,000310,000345,000
10Ariana Grande, Dangerous Woman1,070,000322,000281,000467,000
Source: Nielsen Music, for the tracking period Jan. 1 through Dec. 29, 2016. 

Adele’s blockbuster set 25 closes out 2016 as the No. 2 most popular album, according to Nielsen Music, with 2.37 million units (1.73 million traditional album sales). It was the top album of 2015, with 8.01 million units earned. Following 25 on the 2016 roundup is Beyoncé’s Lemonade (2.19 million units; 1.55 million in album sales), Rihanna’s Anti (1.97 million units; 603,000 in album sales) and Twenty One PilotsBlurryface (1.73 million units; 738,000 in album sales).

MUSIC CONSUMPTION & STREAMING GAINS: Overall for 2016, Nielsen reports that total music consumption rose 3.1 percent to 560.7 million units. That figure adds together traditional album sales, track equivalent album units, and on-demand streaming equivalent album units from both video and audio streams. One track equivalent album unit is equal to 10 tracks sold. One streaming equivalent album unit is equal to 1,500 on-demand streams.

In terms of audio-only consumption (removing on-demand video streams from the 560.7 million number), the gain was 2 percent, rising to 440.81 million units.

Overall album sales, however, declined by 16.7 percent, falling to 200.54 million sold in 2016. While album sales continue to erode, the popularity of streaming music is still sizzling: Total on-demand streams (audio and video combined) jumped 39.2 percent in 2016 to 431.74 billion, on-demand audio streams rose 76.4 percent to 251.86 billion, and on-demand video streams climbed 7.5 percent to 179.88 billion.

ADELE LEADS IN ALBUM SALES: For the second year, Adele’s 25 is the year’s top-selling album, with 1.73 million copies sold in 2016. In 2015, it finished at the top of the heap with 7.44 million. Thus, 25 is the first album to be the year’s top-selling album, twice, since Adele’s previous album, 21, did it in 2011 and 2012 (4.41 million and 5.82 million, respectively). In fact, 25 and 21 are the only albums in Nielsen history to be the year’s top seller, twice. (Nielsen began electronically tracking music sales in 1991.)

TOP 10 SELLING ALBUMS OF 2016 IN U.S. 
RankArtist, TitleSales
1Adele, 251,731,000
2Drake, Views1,608,000
3Beyonce, Lemonade1,554,000
4Chris Stapleton, Traveller1,085,000
5Pentatonix, A Pentatonix Christmas904,000
6Original Broadway Cast Recording, Hamilton: An American Musical820,000
7Twenty One Pilots, Blurryface738,000
8Prince, The Very Best of Prince668,000
9Rihanna, Anti603,000
10Justin Bieber, Purpose554,000
Source: Nielsen Music, for the tracking period Jan. 1 through Dec. 29, 2016.

 

Amazingly, Adele has claimed the top-selling album in four of the past six years (2016, 2015, 2012 and 2011).

Adele is the only artist to notch the calendar year’s top-selling album four times since Nielsen Music’s first full year of tracking, back in 1992. (She was already the only act to do it three times.)

25’s total sales now stand at 9.17 million, since its release on Nov. 20, 2015. It is the 30th biggest-selling album in Nielsen history. 25 was one of four million-selling albums in 2016, down from seven in 2015. Following 25 on the year-end Nielsen top sellers list is Drake’s Views (1.61 million), Beyonce’s Lemonade (1.55 million) and Chris Stapleton’s Traveller (1.09 million).

Notably, 25 is the smallest-selling year-end No. 1 album in Nielsen’s history. Its sum falls below the previous low, set by Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience, which was 2013’s best seller with 2.43 million sold that year.

At No. 5 on Nielsen’s 2016 year-end top-selling albums list is Pentatonix’s A Pentatonix Christmas, with 904,000 copies sold. Behind it is the original Broadway cast recording of Hamilton: An American Musical, with 820,000 copies sold. This is the first time in Nielsen history that a cast recording has finished among the top 10 sellers of the year.

Twenty One Pilots’ Blurryface is No. 7 on the year-end top sellers list, with 738,000. Prince’s The Very Best of Prince is No. 8 with 668,000. The greatest hits album surged in sales following the music icon’s death on April 23, 2016. In fact, Prince sold more albums in 2016 than any other act: 2.23 million. The No. 2-selling albums artist was Adele, with 2.21 million sold.

Rounding out the year’s top 10 selling albums are: Rihanna’s Anti (No. 9 with 603,000) and Justin Bieber’s Purpose (No. 10 with 554,000).

Overall album sales -- physical and digital combined -- fell by 16.7 percent in 2016 to 200.54 million copies (down from 241.66 million in 2015). The decline isn’t surprising, as more music fans transition to consuming music via streaming services (on-demand audio streams vaulted 76.4 percent in 2016, to 251.86 billion).

Comparably, album sales (buoyed somewhat by Adele’s big sales with 25) decreased 6 percent in 2015, 11 percent in 2014, 8 percent in 2013 and 4 percent in 2012.

Physical album sales (CD, vinyl, cassette, etc.) eroded by 14.1 percent to 118.3 million in 2016. CD album sales accounted for 104.8 million of that sum (down 16.3 percent). CDs are still the dominant format for album purchases in the U.S., as there were 82.22 million digital albums sold in 2016 (down 20.1 percent).

Drake’s Views finishes 2016 as the year’s top-selling digital album, with 1.3 million downloads sold. Beyoncé’s Lemonade was the No. 2 biggest digital seller, with 1.2 million.

TOP 10 SELLING DIGITAL ALBUMS OF 2016 IN U.S. 
RankArtist, TitleSales
1Drake, Views1,299,000
2Beyonce, Lemonade1,200,000
3Adele, 25514,000
4Chris Stapleton, Traveller447,000
5Original Broadway Cast Recording, Hamilton: An American Musical422,000
6Twenty One Pilots, Blurryface377,000
7Prince, The Very Best of Prince371,000
8J. Cole, 4 Your Eyez Only356,000
9Rihanna, Anti347,000
10Panic! at the Disco, Death of a Bachelor334,000
Source: Nielsen Music, for the tracking period Jan. 1 through Dec. 29, 2016.


VINYL SALES STILL GROWING: Vinyl album sales have again hit a Nielsen-era record yearly high, as 13.1 million were sold in the format during 2016. That’s up 10 percent compared to 2015 (11.88 million) and marks the 11th straight year of growth in vinyl album sales.

However, the 10 percent hike in sales is the smallest year-over-year percentage gain for the format since 2006, when the rise was less than 1 percent. (In 2015, vinyl album sales grew 30 percent compared to 2014. Between 2007 and 2014, the yearly percentage growth ranged anywhere from 14 to 89 percent.)

Vinyl album sales comprised 6.5 percent of all albums sold in 2016 and 11 percent of all physical albums sold. In 2015, vinyl albums totaled 5 percent of all albums sold and 8.6 percent of physical album sales.

Rock continues to be the dominant genre for vinyl album sales, with a 69 percent share of the year’s sales attributed to rock titles.

The top-selling vinyl album of 2016 is Twenty One Pilots’ Blurryface, with 68,000 sold. It is followed by David Bowie’s Blackstar (66,000), Adele’s 25 (slightly more than 58,000), Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black (58,000) and Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool (56,000).  

TOP 10 SELLING VINYL ALBUMS OF 2016 IN U.S. 
RankArtist, TitleSales
1Twenty One Pilots, Blurryface68,000
2David Bowie, Blackstar66,000
3Adele, 2558,000
4Amy Winehouse, Back to Black58,000
5Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool57,000
6The Beatles, Abbey Road54,000
7Bob Marley and the Wailers, Legend: The Best Of…49,000
8Twenty One Pilots, Vessel46,000
9Miles Davis, Kind of Blue42,000
10Lana Del Rey, Born to Die39,000
Source: Nielsen Music, for the tracking period Jan. 1 through Dec. 29, 2016.

 

‘CAN’T STOP’ LEADS DIGITAL SONGS: Justin Timberlake’s Hot 100 No. 1 hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” is 2016’s biggest-selling digital song download, with 2.49 million sold. It’s one of five tunes to sell more than 2 million downloads in 2016 -- down from 17 in 2015.

There were 35 million-selling songs in 2016, versus 61 in 2015.

Overall digital song sales totaled 723.68 million in 2016 -- down 25 percent compared to 2015 (964.35 million). 2016 marked the fourth straight year of declines for digital song sales, again, owed to music fans embracing streaming services at a rapid rate.

Nielsen began tracking digital song sales in 2003, the same year Apple’s iTunes Store launched. From 2004 through 2012, digital song sales grew on a yearly basis. The high-water mark for the format’s sales was in 2012, when 1.336 billion songs were sold.

TOP 10 SELLING DIGITAL SONGS OF 2016 IN U.S. 
RankArtist, TitleSales
1Justin Timberlake, "Can't Stop the Feeling!"2,495,000
2The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey, "Closer"2,268,000
3Flo Rida, "My House"2,241,000
4Lukas Graham, "7 Years"2,113,000
5Drake featuring WizKid & Kyla, "One Dance"2,008,000
6Twenty One Pilots, "Stressed Out"1,867,000
7Justin Bieber, "Love Yourself"1,817,000
8The Chainsmokers featuring Daya, "Don't Let Me Down"1,795,000
9Rihanna featuring Drake, "Work"1,767,000
10Twenty One Pilots, "Heathens"1,748,000
Source: Nielsen Music, for the tracking period Jan. 1 through Dec. 29, 2016.

 

ON THE RADIO: “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” was also a monster hit on the radio airwaves, as it was the No. 3 most-heard song on radio in 2016, with 3.422 billion audience impressions for the year. It was the No. 2 most-played song in terms of total number of plays, with 587,000 detections.

The top song of 2016, both by audience earned and number of plays, was Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” with 3.950 billion impressions (and 664,000 plays of the track).

Bieber has two of the top 10 most-heard songs of the year, as “Sorry” ranks at No. 9 with 2.787 billion audience impressions.

TOP 10 RADIO SONGS OF 2016 IN U.S. (RANKED BY AUDIENCE IMPRESSIONS)
RankArtist, TitleAudience Impressions
1Justin Bieber, "Love Yourself"3.950 billion
2Drake featuring WizKid & Kyla, "One Dance"3.611 billion
3Justin Timberlake, "Can't Stop the Feeling!"3.422 billion
4Sia featuring Sean Paul, "Cheap Thrills"3.385 billion
5Twenty One Pilots, "Stressed Out"3.369 billion
6The Chainsmokers featuring Daya, "Don't Let Me Down"3.029 billion
7Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna, "This Is What You Came For"2.910 billion
8DNCE, "Cake by the Ocean"2.849 billion
9Justin Bieber, "Sorry"2.787 billion
10Mike Posner, "I Took a Pill in Ibiza"2.725 billion
Source: Nielsen Music, for the tracking period Jan. 1 through Dec. 29, 2016.

 

DRAKE, RIHANNA & DESIIGNER RULE WITH STREAMS: Desiigner’s Hot 100-topping “Panda” was the most-streamed song of 2016, with 791.28 million on-demand audio and video streams, combined. The track was also the top video stream of the year, with 470.45 million streams, and the No. 5 audio stream of 2016, with 320.83 million streams.

Drake’s “One Dance,” featuring WizKid and Kyla, was the biggest audio-only stream of 2016, with 527.43 million streams. In the runner-up spot on the audio list is Drake again, but as the featured act on Rihanna’s “Work,” with 346.91 million.

Overall on-demand streams (audio and video combined) climbed 39.2 percent in 2016 to 431.74 billion, on-demand audio streams bolted 76.4 percent to 251.86 billion, and on-demand video streams rose 7.5 percent to 179.88 billion.

TOP 10 MOST STREAMED SONGS OF 2016, ON-DEMAND AUDIO & VIDEO COMBINED
RankArtist, TitleStreams
1Desiigner, "Panda"791,277,000
2Rihanna featuring Drake, "Work"708,112,000
3The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey, "Closer"611,697,000
4Drake featuring WizKid & Kyla, "One Dance"558,255,000
5Rihanna, "Needed Me"516,854,000
6The Chainsmokers featuring Daya, "Don't Let Me Down"504,875,000
7Justin Bieber, "Sorry"465,741,000
8Fifth Harmony featuring Ty Dolla $ign, "Work From Home"453,309,000
9Twenty One Pilots, "Stressed Out"445,054,000
10D.R.A.M. featuring Lil Yachty, "Broccoli"436,453,000
Source: Nielsen Music, for the tracking period Jan. 1 through Dec. 29, 2016. 

 

TOP 10 ON-DEMAND STREAMS OF 2016, AUDIO-ONLY 
RankArtist, TitleStreams
1Drake featuring WizKid & Kyla, "One Dance"527,430,000
2Rihanna featuring Drake, "Work"346,914,000
3The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey, "Closer"340,908,000
4Rihanna, "Needed Me"322,059,000
5Desiigner, "Panda"320,828,000
6The Chainsmokers featuring Daya, "Don't Let Me Down"310,596,000
7Drake featuring Rihanna, "Too Good"275,837,000
8D.R.A.M. featuring Lil Yachty, "Broccoli"268,790,000
9Drake, "Controlla"267,647,000
10G-Eazy x Bebe Rexha, "Me, Myself & I"252,230,000
Source: Nielsen Music, for the tracking period Jan. 1 through Dec. 29, 2016.

 

TOP 10 ON-DEMAND STREAMS OF 2016, VIDEO-ONLY 
RankArtist, TitleStreams
1Desiigner, "Panda"470,450,000
2Rihanna featuring Drake, "Work"361,197,000
3The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey, "Closer"270,788,000
4Justin Bieber, "Sorry"260,563,000
5Zay Hilfigerrr & Zayion McCall, "Juju On That Beat (Tz Anthem)"256,753,000
6Silento, "Watch Me"248,516,000
7Rae Sremmurd featuring Gucci Mane, "Black Beatles"227,994,000
8Twenty One Pilots, "Stressed Out"226,985,000
9Lukas Graham, "7 Years"216,900,000
10Twenty One Pilots, "Heathens"216,617,000
Source: Nielsen Music, for the tracking period Jan. 1 through Dec. 29, 2016.