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Music streaming shatters records, according to Nielsen Music report

 (Alex Mabaum / For The Times)
(Alex Mabaum / For The Times)

The music industry continues to move headlong into a streaming future, according to Nielsen Music's annual midyear report of listening habits. 

The report, which was published Wednesday, shows that music streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and others delivered a total of 184.3 billion on-demand audio streams, up from 113.5 billion during the same period a year ago, for an increase of 62%.

Buoyed by the success of superstars such as Drake, Future, Ed Sheeran and the return of Taylor Swift's back catalog to major streaming platforms, the services surpassed a milestone in March, when more than 7 billion songs were accessed. 

But music streaming's success came at a cost: total album sales (purchased downloads and physical albums) declined by 18%, which was hastened by a 24% drop in digital track sales and a 20% drop in digital album sales. That number stands to reason: Why download a song when you can stream it for free on YouTube or as part of a platform subscription?

Kendrick Lamar's "Damn" reigns on the total album consumption chart in 2017. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Kendrick Lamar's "Damn" reigns on the total album consumption chart in 2017. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Among the winners in the first half of 2017 were the British pop sensation Sheeran, Compton-bred rapper Kendrick Lamar and Puerto Rican pop star Luis Fonsi. Lamar's recent album, "Damn," was at the top of the total album consumption chart, which calculates success based on a formula involving sales and streaming numbers. 

Sheeran's song "The Shape of You" has earned the most on-demand audio streams, accumulating 354 million this year. Lamar's song "Humble" followed with 345 million streams. Fonsi's collaboration with Justin Bieber and Daddy Yankee, "Despacito," and Migos' "Bad and Boujee" also tallied huge numbers.

Vinyl was another winner in the first half of the year. According to music tracking company BuzzAngle, which also just released its midyear report, sales of the resurgent format increased by 20% over 2016, and accounted for 4.9% of all physical album sales. CD sales dropped by nearly 4%.

The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club" album has sold the most vinyl copies in 2017. None
The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club" album has sold the most vinyl copies in 2017.

Vinyl fans couldn't get enough of the Beatles, according to Nielsen Music's report. Their album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was the top seller on LP, racking up a relatively meager 39,000 hard copies.

The soundtrack to "La La Land" was second, with 33,000 copies sold. Also earning sales in the category were the indie pop band Tennis' "Yours Conditionally," Prince's "Purple Rain" and Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black." 

Other notable calculations from BuzzAngle's report included a breakdown of which genres are most popular across streaming platforms.

Hip-hop tracks constitute nearly 25% of all on-demand audio consumption, followed by pop (12.8%), R&B (9.3%) and country (7.2%).

Drake is the most popular streaming artist in the U.S., with a tally of 3.7 billion spins (including audio and video). Coming in second is Future (2.65 billion), followed by Lamar (2.35 billion).

When fans listen to albums, though, they continue to look to the past for the majority of their music. According to BuzzAngle's report, 51% of streams in 2017 have been for deep catalog titles, compared with 12% for brand new music.

UPDATES

11:44 a.m. This article was updated with new data from BuzzAngle's midyear report.

This article was originally published at 10:51 a.m.

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