After a long 16-month shutdown, music from Justin Bieber, The Weeknd and a posthumous album from the Tragically Hip helped boost music consumption in Canada in the first half of 2021, according to MRC Data’s 2021 Canada midyear report. The tally showed that total equivalent album units was up 10.6% year-over-year during the first six months of 2021, led by an 11.4% boost in on-demand streaming during that time.
Vinyl also continues its recent hot streak, according to the report, which found that vinyl LP sales bounced back up after a dip in 2020, with a 53% uptick over 2020’s first six months. The other good news, now that live events are starting to fill up the calendar after more than a year of frozen stages, is that 59% of survey respondents in the latest COVID-19 Entertainment Tracker study said they miss socializing and meeting people at live events, with 38% of eventgoers saying they’d be willing to attend a live event a month or less after a treatment/vaccine is available to the public.
The report looks at music consumption and trends in the six-month period from Jan. 1, 2021, to July 1, 2021 (compared to the period from Jan. 3, 2020, through July 2, 2020), as compiled by MRC Data.
The lockdown appears to have driven music consumption up across the board, with total album consumption in Canada up 10.6% to 40.5 million equivalent album units, with on-demand song streams up by 11.4% to 52.5 billion and physical album sales up 5% to 1.6 million, even as digital albums sales in Canada dropped 24.2% to 1.2 million, total album sales (physical and digital) were down nearly 10% to 2.8 million, and Canadian digital track sales dropped nearly 27% to 9.7 million.
It was no surprise that the year’s buzziest star Olivia Rodrigo topped the Canada midyear songs chart, with 64.2 million year-to-date on-demand streams for her breakthrough single “Drivers License,” making it the most-streamed and most-consumed song of 2021 to date, while her 7.5 million first-week streams for the song helped it debut at No. 1 on the Jan. 23-dated Canadian Hot 100, where it spent seven weeks at the top. The singer’s debut album, Sour, earned 25,000 first-week equivalent units, giving it the No. 1 biggest week of the year for any album to date, boosted by 30.3 million on-demand streams of the album’s 11 tracks.
Rodrigo’s pop godmother, Taylor Swift, also put up big numbers, with 19,000 first-week equivalent album units for her Fearless (Taylor’s Version), giving Swift her third No. 1 debut on the Billboard Canadian Albums chart in 10 months. Taylor’s Version also racked up 16 million first-week on-demand streams, while her pandemic Evermore album put up 1,200 first-week vinyl sales on May 28.
Ontario native Bieber scored big figures to start the year, with 26.2 million first-week streams for his Justice album, which entered the Billboard Canada albums chart at No. 1 for the chart dated April 13. The first-week streams for his single “Peaches” topped 5.2 million, helping it debut at No. 1 on the Canadian Hot 100 chart dated April 3. Bieber also put up big numbers for his April 4 gospel EP Freedom, which moved 664,000 first-week on-demand streams.
Justice is the No. 2 most popular album overall at the midyear point in Canada, with 148,000 equivalent album units earned. It trails Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album, with 157,000 units. Rounding out the top five biggest albums so far in Canada are Rodrigo’s Sour (139,000 units), Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia (104,000) and Pop Smoke’s Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon (101,000).
Canadian Artists Recap: In addition to Justice being the most-consumed album released by a Canadian artist for the first six months of 2021, Bieber’s singles “Peaches” and “Anyone” are also at No. 2 and No. 4, respectively, on the Canadian Artists: Top Songs tally. Hot on his heels is The Weeknd, whose After Hours and The Highlights compilation are at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, on the top Canadian Artists: Top Albums list, while singles “Save Your Tears” and “Blinding Lights” were at No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, on the Canadian Artists: Top Songs list.
Charlotte Cardin’s Phoenix was the No. 4 most-consumed album by a Canadian artist, with the Tragically Hip’s posthumous collection Yer Favourites rounding out the top five albums list. Tate McRae’s breakthrough single “You Broke Me First” rounded out the top five on the list of most-consumed songs by a Canadian artist.
On the Canadian Artists: Top Radio Songs tally, The Weeknd is tops with “Save Your Tears,” followed by Shawn Mendes and Justin Bieber’s “Monster,” Bieber and Chance the Rapper’s “Holy,” McCrae’s “You Broke Me First” and The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights.”
Several Canadian rockers landed No. 1 hits in the modern rock format, including Juno Award winner JJ Wilde (“Mercy”), Grandson (“Dirty”), Mother Mother (“I Got Love”) and the Arkells (“You Can Get It”). Homegrown Canadian country stars landed chart-toppers as well, including two for Brett Kissel (“A Few Good Stories,” “Make a Life, Not a Living”), Dallas Smith (“Some Things Never Change”), Dean Brody (“Boys”), High Valley (“River’s Still Running”) and Jade Eagleson (“All Night to Figure It Out”).
Rap: Pop Smoke’s posthumous Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon kept riding high through the first half of the year, and it stands as the most popular rap album at midyear, with 101,000 equivalent album units earned and just one week out of the top 10 since its debut on the Billboard Canadian Albums chart on July 18, 2020. The rest of the top five albums so far this year includes: The Kid LAROi (F*ck Love), Post Malone (Hollywood’s Bleeding), Juice WRLD (Legends Never Die) and Eminem (Music to be Murdered By).
The top rap songs on the Canadian charts so far this year include Masked Wolf (“Astronaut in the Ocean”), 24KGoldn featuring Iann Dior (“Mood”), Polo G (“Rapstar”), Lil Tjay featuring 6Lack (“Calling My Phone”) and Cardi B (“Up”). The top rap radio songs were: 24KGoldn featuring Iann Dior (“Mood”), Masked Wolf (“Astronaut in the Ocean”), Drake featuring Lil Durk (“Laugh Now Cry Later”), Curtis Waters featuring Harm Franklin (“Stunnin'”) and Pop Smoke (“What You Know Bout Love”).
Country: Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album spent eight weeks at the top of the all-genre Billboard Canadian Albums chart, making it the most popular overall album as well as the top country album at midyear, with 157,000 equivalent album units earned. Luke Combs had the second most-popular country album with What You See Is What You Get, followed by Swift’s Fearless (Taylor’s Version), Combs’ This One’s for You and Chris Stapleton’s Starting Over. The top country songs so far this year are topped by Combs (“Forever After All”), followed by Gabby Barrett (“I Hope”), Stapleton (“Starting Over”), Wallen (“Wasted on You”) and Keith Urban with P!nk (“One Too Many”).
The top country tunes at radio so far this year are: Barrett (“I Hope”), Urban with P!nk (“One Too Many”), Miranda Lambert (“Settling Down”), Thomas Rhett (“What’s Your Country Song”) and Eric Church (“Hell of a View”).
R&B: The Weeknd grabbed the top two spots on the R&B albums chart and radio songs chart, as well as the top spot on the songs chart, while Travis Scott had the most-consumed dance/electronic track of 2021 so far with HVME’s “Goosebumps,” a 2016 track that was re-cut into a deep house track by HVME, with Scott adding vocals in January.
Dance/Electronic: Kygo topped the dance albums run-down with Golden Hour, while Loud Luxury and Frank Walker’s “Like Gold” was atop the radio songs tally.
Rock: Rapper Machine Gun Kelly’s tip into pop-punk, Tickets to My Downfall, was the top rock album of 2021 so far with 49,000 equivalent album units, followed by albums from Elton John (Diamonds), the Tragically Hip collection, Fleetwood Mac (Rumours) and Queen (Bohemian Rhapsody soundtrack). Glass Animals had the top song with “Heat Waves” and AJR topped radio songs chart with “Bang!”
Album equivalent audio music consumption = traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA). Each unit equals one album sale, or 10 individual tracks sold from an album, or 3,750 ad-supported on-demand official audio streams generated by songs from an album, or 1,250 paid/subscription on-demand official audio streams generated by songs from an album.