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U.S. Music Consumption Up 12.5% in 2017, R&B/Hip-Hop Is Year’s Most Popular Genre

Music consumption in the U.S. rose 12.5 percent in 2017, according to Nielsen Music. R&B/hip-hop music was the year's most popular genre, accounting for 24.5 percent of all music consumed.

According to Nielsen Music, total music consumption in the U.S. in 2017 climbed 12.5 percent to 636.65 million units (up from 566.1 million). That figure adds together traditional album sales, track equivalent album units, and on-demand streaming equivalent album units from both video and audio streams. One track equivalent album unit is equal to 10 tracks sold. One streaming equivalent album unit is equal to 1,500 on-demand streams.

In terms of audio-only consumption (removing on-demand video streams from the equation), the gain was 10.2 percent, rising to 491.55 million units (from 446.12 million).

Nielsen Music’s 2017 tracking year ran from Dec. 30, 2016 through Dec. 28, 2017. Numbers in this story are rounded. Nielsen Music began electronically tracking music sales and data in 1991.

Additionally, the R&B/hip-hop genre represented 24.5 percent of all music consumption in the U.S. — the largest share of any genre and the first time R&B/hip-hop has led this measurement for a calendar year. (The 24.5 percent share represents a combination of album sales, track equivalent album units and streaming equivalent album units — including both on-demand audio and video streams.) The rock genre is in second place for the year, with 20.8 percent share.


R&B/hip-hop also led Nielsen’s mid-year report — the first time R&B/hip-hop had overtaken rock as music’s biggest genre at mid-year.

Seven of the year’s top 10 most popular albums were R&B/hip-hop efforts, led by Kendrick Lamar‘s DAMN., which was the No. 2 overall album, according to Nielsen Music. The set earned 2.747 million equivalent album units in 2017.

DAMN.‘s 2.747 million equivalent album units figure is a multi-metric consumption total, which includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and on-demand audio streaming equivalent albums (SEA). The multi-metric formula is also used to compile the weekly Billboard 200 albums chart, which ranks the most popular albums of the week in the U.S.

Aside from DAMN.‘s placing at No. 2 on the year-end top 10 albums list (see below), R&B/hip-hop sets also populated the tally at Nos. 4-8 and 10.

Rank Artist, Title Total Units Album Sales TEA Units SEA Units
1 Ed Sheeran, ÷ (Divide) 2,764,000 1,102,000 581,000 1,081,000
2 Kendrick Lamar, DAMN. 2,747,000 910,000 217,000 1,620,000
3 Taylor Swift, Reputation 2,336,000 1,903,000 153,000 280,000
4 Drake, More Life 2,227,000 363,000 149,000 1,715,000
5 Bruno Mars, 24K Magic 1,626,000 710,000 320,000 597,000
6 Post Malone, Stoney 1,564,000 128,000 174,000 1,262,000
7 Migos, Culture 1,438,000 134,000 156,000 1,149,000
8 The Weeknd, Starboy 1,408,000 275,000 189,000 945,000
9 Soundtrack, Moana 1,254,000 709,000 197,000 348,000
10 Khalid, American Teen 1,220,000 147,000 124,000 950,000
Source: Nielsen Music, for the tracking period Dec. 30, 2016 through Dec. 28, 2017.