New Nielsen music report reveals an increasingly healthy industry

Music Industry, Music Biz, Music Business Report, Consumption, Data, Streaming, Business

Annual report shows industry-wide growth and continued embrace of streaming services.

The internet has changed practically every aspect of the music business, including the speediness of reporting. In years past, the annual Nielsen music report would arrive in February or March, but the latest is already available online. The contents help to gauge the strength of the music business as a whole, which this year reveal an industry poised for big things in the months to come.

The biggest takeaway from this year’s report is that consumption is up. Way up. According to Nielsen, total music consumption rose 23% over 2017, mostly thanks to a 49% increase in on-demand streams from services like Spotify and Apple Music, among others. Industry pundits continue to take issue with the “album equivalent” metric (where 1,500 streams from an album are equivalent to one album sale) as it is open to manipulation and as a result, doesn’t accurately depict how people consume an album, but that’s all we have right now.

Other key takeaway include:

  • “Music streaming volume continued to rise, with the total number of on-demand audio song streams reaching 611 billion in 2018, a sizable 49% increase over the same time period in 2017.”
  • “Overall on-demand music streaming volume, including video, surpassed 900 billion streams, an increase of 43% over the same period last year.”
  • “Vinyl continued to soar, up 15% over the same period last year, with record-breaking sales during the week of the 11th annual Record Store Day.”
  • “Despite sharp declines in Digital purchasing, Digital Audio consumption (digital albums + track equivalent albums + on-demand audio streaming equivalent albums) was up a healthy 34%.”
  • “Four songs surpassed 1 billion on-demand streams this year, including Drake’s ‘God’s Plan,’ Juice WRLD’s ‘Lucid Dreams (Forget Me),’ Drake’s ‘In My Feelings’ and XXXtentacion’s ‘Sad.'”

Nielsen also identified several trends that emerged throughout the last year. These include Latin artists getting more traction on the top of the charts than ever, Drake breaking consumption records, more than double the number of female artists on the charts from the previous year, soundtracks scoring big with consumers (most thanks to The Greatest Showman), and K-Pop finally breaking through big in the U.S. (mostly thanks to boy band BTS).

The genre that saw the biggest streaming growth over the last year is country music, which saw a 47% jump. That fact speaks to the long-held belief that country fans held out longest before abandoning their love of physical media. With the trend now broken, it appears that streaming is and will remain the king of consumer consumption. At least, that is, until a new format arrives.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.