Country Music Consumption Up In 2018 As Shift To Streaming Continues

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Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line perform onstage during the 53rd Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 15, 2018 in Las Vegas.

Buy it. Stream it. Watch the video.

Fans have multiple ways to consume music in 2019, and in appropriate fashion, three different artists led four year-end Nielsen Music country lists for 2018 with Luke Combs, Florida Georgia Line and Jason Aldean feeling the love on different platforms.

Actual product sales were down by double digits as consumers continue to move in overwhelming numbers to streaming. On balance, overall consumption -- measured through audio-equivalent album units, which is a combination of album sales, track-equivalent album sales and on-demand audio streaming -- grew by 10 percent for country, which racked up 48.38 million audio-equivalent album units.

Combs, Aldean, Kane Brown and Chris Stapleton titles fared best in that multipoint hybrid measurement, with Stapleton landing two albums -- 2015's Traveller and 2017's From A Room: Volume 1 -- among the top 10. Combs topped the heap with 1.075 million audio-equivalent units of This One's for You.

Country moved in the same direction as the total industry, though not as dramatically. Total industry audio-equivalent albums hit 617.98 million, up a whopping 23 percent from 2017.   

Streaming growth contributed mightily to those bumps. Country amassed 50.88 billion streams, a 46 percent inflation over the 2017 numbers. That performance slightly outpaced the overall industry, which counted 901 billion streams, a 43 percent increase.

FGL's collaboration with pop singer Bebe Rexha, "Meant to Be," benefited most from that growth as a runaway winner in both on-demand streaming and digital downloads. It racked up 721.6 million streams, outpacing Brown's "Heaven," which landed at No. 2 with 470.5 million streams. (Due to an internal technical error, the original version of this story omitted "Meant to Be" from the list.) Brown's "What Ifs," a duet with Lauren Alaina, was listed as No. 5 among 2018's on-demand country streams, just a year after placing at No. 3.

"Meant to Be" easily owned the Digital Songs championship for the year, accruing more than 1 million downloads. Aldean's "You Make It Easy" earned 598,000 downloads to claim the No. 2 slot, edging out "Heaven," which accumulated 589,000 downloads.

Country registered 46.05 million track sales in 2018, a steep 33 percent drop from the prior year. The industry's total volume of downloaded tracks likewise dipped with the 411.5 million total, representing a 27 percent decline.

Aldean's Rearview Town ruled country's album sales, the most traditional form of transactions in the current consumption scheme. It accrued 463,000 purchases to outdistance Carrie Underwood's Cry Pretty (No. 2, 401,000 sales) and Keith Urban's Graffiti U (No. 3, 273,000 sales). Stapleton nailed down the No. 4-6 positions with Traveller and both volumes of From A Room.

Country totaled 14.14 million album sales in 2018, receding 28.5 percent from its 2017 numbers. That percentage was larger than the industry as a whole, which logged 141.4 million album sales, a 17.7 percent decline.

Nielsen Music's 2018 tracking year ran from Dec. 29, 2017, through Jan. 3, 2019, a quirk in the calendar that covered 53 chart weeks instead of the usual 52. For comparison, Nielsen Music used a 53-week year to represent 2017: Dec. 30, 2016, through Jan. 4, 2018. Thus, the 2018 statistical base for this story is slightly different than the numbers that were compiled a year ago, based on the official 52-week calendar.

Following are the 10 best-selling country albums and tracks for 2018, as well as the genre's 10 most-streamed titles:

 

Top Country Albums, Total Audio-Equivalent Units, 2018

1) Luke Combs, This One’s for You          1,075,000

2) Jason Aldean, Rearview Town             915,000

3) Kane Brown, Kane Brown             820,000

4) Chris Stapleton, Traveller            733,000

5) Thomas Rhett, Life Changes                635,000

6) Carrie Underwood, Cry Pretty                        590,000

7) Dan + Shay, Dan + Shay            570,000

8) Brett Young, Brett Young                523,000

9) Chris Stapleton, From A Room, Volume 1             441,000

10) Luke Bryan, What Makes You Country            441,000

 

Top-Selling Country Albums, 2018

1) Jason Aldean, Rearview Town                   463,000

2) Carrie Underwood, Cry Pretty                           401,000

3) Keith Urban, Graffiti U             273,000

4) Chris Stapleton, From A Room, Volume 2                 249,000

5) Chris Stapleton, Traveller             245,000

6) Chris Stapleton, From A Room, Volume 1               230,000

7) Luke Combs, This One’s for You            223,000

8) Kane Brown, Kane Brown                 199,000

9) Alan Jackson, Precious Memories Collection            186,000

10) Dierks Bentley, The Mountain            181,000

 

Top-Selling Country Digital Songs, 2018

1) Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line, “Meant to Be”         1,042,000

2) Jason Aldean, “You Make It Easy”               598,000

3) Kane Brown, “Heaven”                589,000

4) Dan + Shay , “Tequila”            509,000

5) Thomas Rhett, “Marry Me”             365,000

6) Florida Georgia Line, “Simple”            364,000

7) Brett Young, “Mercy”            352,000

8) Chris Stapleton, “Broken Halos”            334,000

9) Chris Stapleton, “Tennessee Whiskey”            332,000

10) Kenny Chesney, “Get Along”                         320,000

 

Most-Streamed Country Songs, 2018 (By Total On-Demand Streaming, Audio and Video Combined)

1) Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line, “Meant to Be”              721,618,000

2) Kane Brown, “Heaven”                  470,494,000

3) Dan + Shay, “Tequila”                   354,587,000

4) Chris Stapleton, “Tennessee Whiskey”                 340,814,000

5) Kane Brown feat. Lauren Alaina, “What Ifs”                           313,430,000

6) Thomas Rhett, “Marry Me”                           308,375,000

7) Sam Hunt, “Body Like a Back Road”                  272,741,000

8) Jason Aldean, “You Make It Easy”                  249,390,000

9) Luke Combs, “When It Rains It Pours”                             232,052,000

10) Brett Young, “In Case You Didn’t Know”                          226,996,000


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