A country music superstar, Maren Morris' sophomore release recently debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200, but its performance on streaming services, while good for a country album, is revealing just how far the genre has to go to catch up with others.
Guest post by Hugh McIntyre. This article originally appeared on Forbes.
Country superstar Maren Morris debuts her sophomore album Girl at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 this week, hitting a new high on the all-genre ranking in the process. On the country-only Top Country Albums chart, the full-length becomes her second No. 1, and the woman behind it makes history in the process...and by doing so, she highlights how far the country music world still has to go when it comes to catching up to the biggest players in the streaming world.
Girl launches with just under 24 million streams (23.96) in its first frame, which, according to Billboard, sets a new record for the most streams for a female-fronted country album’s debut in the chart’s history. She bests the previous record set by Carrie Underwood, who saw her most recent No. 1 record Cry Pretty rack up 14.44 million streams when it first became available last year.
Morris’ ability to beat the previous record by just under 10 million plays, a gain of almost 70 percent more streams in just one week, less than a year after that one-time record holder was released, is impressive, but it also highlights the fact that even in 2019, country music doesn’t come even close to garnering the same attention on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music that the biggest streamers can.
Back in February, hip-hop musician A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie saw his latest album Hoodie SZN return to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 during a particularly quiet frame. It only managed to move 47,000 equivalent units, an extremely small sum for a chart-topper, but a figure that’s very close to the 45,000 equivalent units Girl shifted.
Of the 47,000 units Hoodie SZN moved, fewer than 1,000 were actual sales, while an astounding 45,000 came from streams. That week, even an album that had already been out for a month and which only bounced back to the peak because nothing bigger happened to be released, was streamed 68.4 million times, and that’s a fairly paltry sum for the biggest names in hip-hop.
The record for the most streams in a debut week by any album belongs to Drake, who started his latest project Scorpion at No. 1 on the Billboard last summer with 745.9 million streams. Now, nobody should expect a rising star like Maren Morris to perform anywhere near as well as a titan like Drake when it comes to streams or sales, but it is telling that Morris just made history and established a new best showing for women in her genre when her album only collected just over three percent as many streams as the all-time record holder (when taking into account all artists).
As streaming platforms take over the music world and the masses turn to them instead of record stores and online retailers like Amazon, some genres have benefited more than others, such as hip-hop and electronic music. Others, like country, have been notoriously slow to adapt, and fan bases haven’t yet shown up in the same way as they have for other acts.
Congratulations are in order for Morris, a young talent whose fans clearly have more of an interest in streaming her latest than many other country stars...a fact which hopefully changes soon, as there are huge opportunities for the country stars willing to push streaming first and foremost.
Hugh McIntyre: I am a freelance music journalist based in New York City. My byline has appeared in The Huffington Post, Billboard, Mashable, Noisey, The Hollywood Reporter, MTV, Fuse, and dozens of other magazines and blogs around the world. I love following charts and the biggest and most successful names in the industry, and I'm always interested in highlighting incredible feats and discovering what's next.