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Ed Sheeran, Hip-Hop and ‘Despacito’ Highlight Nielsen Music’s 2017 Canada Report

Ed Sheeran was the top-selling artist in Canada for 2017, hip-hop was the country's fastest-growing music genre, six Canadian artists had No. 1 albums on the Billboard Canadian Album chart, and…

Ed Sheeran was the top-selling artist in Canada for 2017, hip-hop was the country’s fastest-growing music genre, six Canadian artists had No. 1 albums on the Billboard Canadian Album chart and overall consumption of albums, songs and on-demand audio streaming grew 13.6 percent year-over-year. These are just some of the insights provided by Nielsen Music Year-End Report, released today (Jan. 4).

On-demand audio streaming surpassed the 900 million per-week mark for the first time in Canadian history on Dec. 3.

“The past year demonstrated that it’s an exciting time for the music industry in Canada,” Paul Shaver, vp/head of Nielsen Music Canada, said in a statement. “Streaming continues to evolve and mature in the market, becoming a key source of music discovery for consumers. Streaming, physical sales, downloads, airplay and live attendance are all driving music consumption to new heights. The music landscape is evolving at a rapid pace and we look forward to tracking and identifying industry opportunities for the year ahead.”

The data covers the 12-month period ending Dec. 28, 2017. The full report (here) includes the Nielsen Music Year-End charts, presented by Billboard, and covers a range of industry verticals, such as streaming, social media, live music and events, brand activations, artist and genre insights, television and film, format trends and more.


Sheeran’s ÷ was the most-consumed album with 501,000 total consumption units and spent five weeks at No. 1, more than any other album in Canada last year. His single “Shape Of You” was also the most-consumed song, with the highest streaming total and the second-highest song downloads, behind Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee‘s “Despacito.” The song was also most played on Canadian radio.

While Canadians have dominated the top 10 in more recent years, Shania Twain (No. 5), Arcade Fire (No. 6) and Mario Pelchat (No. 7) all appeared in the 2017 top 10 best-selling albums chart. Among the six Canadian artists that hit the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Canadian Albums was Gord Downie for his posthumous release, Introduce Yerself; and The Weeknd, Drake, Arcade Fire, Twain and Pierre Lapointe.


Total audio streams topped 39 billion in 2017, powered by a 70.9 percent increase in on-demand audio streams over the year prior. The industry did experience decreases in both digital album (down 17.4 percent) and digital track sales (down 18.8 percent), but it was the growth in streaming that led to a 24.6 percent overall increase in digital music consumption. In 2017, catalog albums represented 53 percent of total album sales, the highest percentage to date in the Nielsen Music era. Canada saw its highest vinyl LP sales total to date with a 21.8 percent increase over 2016, the seventh straight year of growth for the format.

Elsewhere, hip-hop/R&B grew 86.2 percent in on-demand audio streams year-over-year, while “Despacito” became the first Latin song to top the Canadian Hot 100. Five albums (as opposed to six last year) sold more than 100,000 copies in 2017 — Sheeran’s ÷, Taylor Swift‘s Reputation, Metallica‘s Hardwired…To Self-Destruct, P!nk‘s Beautiful Trauma and Twain’s Now — with Reputation claiming the highest single-week total, with 80,000 copies sold.

Just two songs, “Shape Of You” and “Despacito,” sold more than 300,000 downloads in 2017, compared to four in 2016, while those two also doubled as the first tracks to be streamed more than 100 times in a calendar year in Canada; 20 songs were streamed more than 50 million times, up from 14 the year prior.