Remember in early 2013 when Apple hit 25 billion iTune song downloads? And Tim Cook said it took Sony 30 years to sell 220,000 Walkmans? Well, fast-forward just under four years, and Nielsen has revealed that Americans streamed 431 billion songs in 2016 alone, surpassing total digital sales of songs and albums for the first time in history. "The landscape is evolving even more quickly than we have seen with other format shifts," said Nielsen SVP David Bakula.
In fact, folks in the US streamed more songs per day (1.2 billion) than the 734 million that were downloaded during the entire year, the ratings company said. As with similar increases in the UK, streaming increased 76 percent from last year, a figure that helped the music industry grow a solid three percent over 2015. Major streaming sites, especially Spotify and Apple Music, also saw dramatic subscriber boosts.
The music industry continues to grow at a healthy rate, and 2016 showed us that the landscape is evolving even more quickly than we have seen with other format shifts.
Six songs alone, including Desiigner's "Panda" and Rihanna's "Work," accounted for 500 million total on-demand streams. Drake led everyone by a long way, however, with 5.4 billion total streams, and also sold the most digital songs and albums. A big part of the increase is because of Hip-hop and R&B, genres that accounted for 22 percent of music consumption, but a disproportionate 28 percent of streams.
Rounding out the good news, physical album sales also increased as a share of total album sales for the first time in a decade, and vinyl sales hit 13 million -- the most since 1991, the year Nirvana's Nevermind came out. The latter stats are the most surprising, as you'd expect physical album sales to be on a strong downward curve, and that's clearly not the case. Despite warnings from the RIAA, it seems that having a better alternative to piracy has not only increased industry profits, but passion for music overall.