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Music Consumption Trends and What They Mean

1As we dive into 2018, it's important to take a look back at some of the music consumption data from last year which shows an unsurprising bump and streaming, as well a rise overall.


Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0

As we enter into the new year, it’s sometimes useful to look back at the previous year to discover what the trends were. Nielsen Music posted it’s music consumption figures for 2017 and a number of things became pretty evident when you really looked a the data.

1. Total music consumption was up by 12.5 percent in 2017 to 636.65 million units (compared to 566.1 million the previous year). This is all forms of music consumption, including traditional album sales, track equivalent album units, and on-demand streaming equivalent album units from both video and audio streams. In case you’re not aware, the music business now considers a “track equivalent album” to be 10 tracks sold (although they could be the same track). A “streaming equivalent album” is equal to 1,500 on-demand streams. Audio-only consumption was up 10.2 percent, a good amount, but not especially gangbusters.

2. Streaming got even hotter. Total on-demand streams ( which includes audio and video) was up a whopping 43 percent from 432.2 billion in 2016 to 618 billion in 2017. On-demand audio streams alone where up 59 percent to 400.4 billion. This section of the business is hot as a pistol.

23. Album sales fell again. Album sales were down by 17.7 percent to 169.15 million copies sold. This includes CD, digital albums, vinyl LPs, and cassettes. There seems to be less and less of a reason to record an album these days, since not that many people care, which brings us to the next p0int.

4. The top selling album didn’t sell much. Taylor Swift’s Reputation topped the list last year with only 1.9 million sold. There was only one other album that topped a million last year, and that was Ed Sheeran’s Divide at 1.1 million. Remember the days when an artist would sell that in a week? They’re long gone.

5. Vinyl sales were pretty good. Vinyl sold 14.32 million units in 2017, which was up about 9% over the previous year. That represented about 8.5 percent of all album sales in 2017, but it’s still a drop in the bucket in the big picture of the music business. The top selling vinyl albums? The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band at 72,000 and Abbey Road at 66,000. The soundtrack Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 was the third biggest seller with 62,000. The problem here is it’s all old music, so vinyl isn’t doing that much in terms of helping newer acts.

So to sum it up, total music consumption was up, but not by the amount that everyone expected. This was led by streaming, which is growing like crazy. Albums don’t sell that much these days, and in the grand scheme of things, vinyl isn’t really worth the hassle.

Check this out for a lot more great data from the Nielsen report.