In the United States last year, one in every 125 on-demand audio streams was a Drake song, more than one in every 100 digital songs purchased was a BTS track and one in every 50 albums sold was Taylor Swift‘s, according to MRC Data.
Such dominance by major acts is now commonplace in the modern music market, which is even more consolidated around hit songs and acts than it was 20 years ago. So while breakouts like Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album and Adele‘s long-awaited 30 were the year’s most-consumed albums, according to MRC Data’s 2021 year-end report released last week, and hit songs by newer acts like Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” and Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license” became synonymous hits, the continued supremacy of blockbuster acts like Drake, Taylor Swift and BTS drove their catalogs to massive shares of the market.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given both the dominance of R&B/hip-hop generally and the release of his blockbuster new album specifically, Drake was the most-streamed artist of 2021, accounting for 8.6 billion total on-demand audio and video streams over the past year, totaling 0.76% of all on-demand streams in the U.S., as tracked by MRC Data. Drake accounted for 0.8% of all on-demand audio streams in the U.S. in 2021 — up from 0.7% the year prior.
Drake racked up nearly 1.9 billion more on-demand audio streams than Swift, the country’s second most-streamed artist, who accounted for 0.61% of all on-demand audio streams. The top 10 artists with the most on-demand audio streams in 2021 — a list that also includes YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Juice WRLD, Wallen, Kanye West, The Weeknd, Rod Wave, Polo G and Pop Smoke — accounted for 4.55% of all those streams for the year, or just shy of 45 billion total.
The percentage breakdowns are similar for on-demand video streams, though that format is dominated by YoungBoy, the only artist to crack 1 billion for the year. His share of on-demand video streams works out to 0.74% of the total (down from his leading 0.94% in 2020), besting Drake’s 0.5%, Juice WRLD’s 0.46%, Eminem’s 0.45% and Doja Cat’s 0.43%. The whole top 10 — which also includes Rodrigo, Rod Wave, The Weeknd, Kevin Gates and Lil Durk — accounted for 4.49% of total on-demand video streams in the U.S. in 2021, according to MRC Data.
Among sales formats, the discrepancies between the top sellers and everyone else get much larger. Total album sales were dominated by Swift (2.4 million, 2.17%, up from her leading 1.89% in 2020), Adele (1.6 million, 1.48%) and BTS (1.1 million, 0.97%), the only three artists to crack 1 million overall sales for the year, accounting for 4.62% of all album sales. The rest of the top 10 — a mix of younger artists like Billie Eilish and Rodrigo alongside veterans like the Beatles, Metallica, Queen, Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd — accounted for 4.13% on their own, making the top 10 as a whole responsible for 8.75% of all album sales in the U.S.
Swift and Adele are also the top two among digital album sales, comprising 1.35% (down from her massive 3.07% in 2020) and 1.07% of digital album sales in the U.S. in 2021, respectively. The top 10 is rounded out by Wallen, the Beatles, Chris Stapleton, Drake, Rodrigo, Carrie Underwood, West and Pink Floyd, who collectively comprised 5.41% of the overall total.
Among physical formats, the top 10 takes a much bigger chunk of the overall pie: 11.74% of total CD sales and 11.44% of total vinyl LP sales, according to MRC Data. The top three CD sellers — BTS (1 million, 2.54%, down from a mammoth 3.65% in 2020), Adele (952,000, 2.35%) and Swift (898,000, 2.21%) — accounted for 7.1% of the overall number of CDs sold in the U.S. last year, while Swift (1.1 million, 2.62%), the Beatles (659,000, 1.58%) and Eilish (587,000, 1.41%) alone accounted for 5.61% of total vinyl sales. (The Beatles led the way in 2020, with 1.9% of all vinyl sales.)
The biggest format dominance, in terms of raw numbers, came among digital song sales, where BTS was the runaway No. 1 act. The group sold 2.95 million digital songs in 2021 in the U.S., good for 1.45% of the total number of songs sold (up from 1.06% in 2020). This is most impressive in comparison: No other act sold more than 1 million digital songs in the year, with Dua Lipa’s 954,000 in second place at 0.47% of total digital song sales, according to MRC Data.