Pop Smoke, Taylor Swift and Saint JHN top MRC Data’s 2020 Canada year-end report, which showed that album equivalent audio music consumption last year grew 6.5% (*see explanation at end of this story) despite significant challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The trio of acts posted the most popular album (late rapper Smoke’s Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon), best selling album (Swift’s surprise Folklore) and most consumed song (JHN’s “Roses”) of 2020, according to MRC Data (formerly Nielsen Music).
The company reports that audio streaming was growing steadily through March 12 when the novel coronavirus shut the industry (and the world) down, with streams up 21.3% over the same period in 2019; total album equivalent audio music consumption — which includes album sales — was up 10.8% in the first 10 weeks of the year. By March 20, when the pandemic shut down live concerts, events, offices and schools, MRC Data’s more than eight COVID-19 studies found that time spent with music (46%) rose above the figures for video games (45%), cooking/baking and movies (40%), TV (38%), news (36%) and online shopping (34%).
The good news is that after an 8.2% decline during the first eight weeks of the lockdown, on-demand audio streaming bounced back through the end of the year, with a 16.1% increase in on-demand audio streaming, and total album equivalent audio music consumption up 6.5% for the full year 2020 to 73.9 million album equivalent units for a record 87 billion streams.
The widespread Black Lives Matter protests in support of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other victims of police violence dominated the news throughout the year as well, as singles from Lil Baby and Beyoncé (“Freedom”), as well as beloved songs by Childish Gambino (“This Is America”) and J. Cole (“A Lot” and “Middle Child”) became the soundtrack of the modern civil rights movement. The disruption in 2002 also shortened musical attention spans, with the Canadian Hot 100 having an unusually high amount of songs reaching the No. 1 spot (19 total, up from 13 in 2019), with a handful — including Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” and The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” — spending multiple weeks at No. 1 and many months in the top 10.
MRC Data’s 2020 tracking year ran from Jan. 3, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020. *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.
Video streams are not factored into the album equivalent audio music consumption units total. Equivalent album units do not include listening to music on broadcast radio or digital radio broadcasts.