Country music streaming hit a historic new high in the U.S., with a record 1.244 billion on-demand audio streams of songs in the genre in the week ending April 9, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data. That blows past the previous single-week high-water mark, set just earlier this year, when 1.201 billion audio clicks occurred in the week ending March 5.
Further, overall country song streams (combining on-demand audio and video streams) jumped to 1.389 billion in the week ending April 9. That’s the biggest week overall for the genre in eight months – since the week ending Aug. 8, 2019, when country tunes collected 1.397 billion clicks.
Streams are measured from all leading services, including Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Amazon, Soundcloud and Tidal.
Third Straight Week of Country Gains: For the third week in a row, both overall on-demand streams and on-demand audio streams of country songs posted gains. In the frame ending April 9, total country on-demand streams grew 4%, while on-demand audio streams gained 5%.
Country’s Share of On-Demand Audio Grows: Year-to-date, through the week ending April 9, on-demand audio streams of country songs represent 7.19% of all on-demand audio streams (15.94 billion of 221.81 billion). A year ago (through the week ending April 11, 2019), country’s share stood at 6.92% (13.23 billion of 191.08 billion).
To compare, the genre with the biggest share of the streaming market remains R&B/hip-hop. The genre accounts for 31.09% of year-to-date on-demand audio streams (68.96 billion of 221.81 billion). A year ago at this point, the genre’s share stood at 31.89% (60.95 billion of 191.08 billion).
And for good measure, year-to-date in 2018 (through April 5, 2018): country’s on-demand share was 6.47%, while R&B/hip-hop was 29.85%.
Considering the genre’s huge chunk of the streaming market, R&B/hip-hop fans were early adopters of streaming services. Meanwhile, country has been playing catch-up. Notably, in the last year, a number of major country albums have debuted with eye-popping on-demand audio streaming debuts – including Maren Morris’ Girl (24 million), Thomas Rhett’s Center Point Road (33.6 million), Luke Combs’ What You See Is What You Get (country’s single-week streaming record of 74 million) and, as reflected in this week’s record haul, Sam Hunt’s Southside (34.5 million).
While those numbers are great for the country genre, when you stack those figures next to those of major R&B/hip-hop releases, they are tiny. In 2020 alone, 10 R&B/hip-hop albums have launched with over 100 million on-demand audio streams each in their first weeks.
Hunt Helps Out: Streams of country music got a big assist in the latest tracking week thanks to the arrival of Sam Hunt’s new album Southside on April 3. The set arrived at No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart and No. 5 on the all-genre Billboard 200, and scored the third-largest streaming week ever for a country album (36.8 million streams of its songs, audio and video combined).
Without Southside’s streams, total country on-demand streaming volume would have stood at 1.353 billion in the week ending April 9. Still, that robust sum would have been the largest for country music since the week ending Nov. 28, 2019 (1.355 billion).
Parsing Southside’s streams further, its on-demand audio streams totaled 34.5 million (of its total 36.8 million). So, if we removed the 34.5 million from country’s on-demand audio sum for the week (1.243 billion), it would only bring it down to 1.209 billion – still the biggest week ever for on-demand audio country streams.
ACM & CMT Assist: Aside from the arrival of Southside on April 3, country music also got an assist last week from two TV specials that helped stir interest in country tunes. First, CBS aired ACM Presents: Our Country on April 5, and then CMT broadcast CMT GIANTS Kenny Rogers: A Benefit for MusiCares on April 8. The former aired the same night as the postponed Academy of Country Music Awards, while the latter saluted the late superstar Rogers, who died on March 20.
ACM Presents: Our Country boasted performances from the likes of Kelsea Ballerini, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Luke Combs, Florida Georgia Line, Miranda Lambert, Thomas Rhett, Shania Twain and Carrie Underwood.
CMT GIANTS featured such acts as Vince Gill, Randy Houser, Lady Antebellum, Jennifer Nettles, Dolly Parton and Rascal Flatts.
dick clark productions, producer of ACM Presents: Our Country, is owned by Valence Media, the parent company of Billboard.