Music streaming is on the rise, Nielsen figures show

It’s a streaming world in the music business, lest anyone still had any doubts. Nielsen Music’s first-quarter figures for music consumption bear that reality out solidly, with numbers that show on-demand music streaming up a whopping 35.2% in the first three months of 2017 compared to one year earlier.

Consumers initiated 133.9 billion streams in the first quarter, up from 99.1 billion during the same period last year, continuing the growth of 39% overall in 2016 compared to 2015.

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Translated as album sales, using a formula that assigns one sale for every 1,500 song streams, the music industry also experienced continued growth, but at a more modest rate of 5.9%. Unit sales of track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA) increased from 137.4 million last year to 145.5 million so far in 2017.

Music lovers also are increasingly taking advantage of curated playlists on various streaming services, such as artist-generated playlists and features such as Spotify’s “New Music Friday” lists. Use of such “programmed streaming” jumped 49.2%, from 2.1 billion streams in the first quarter of 2016 to 3.1 billion streams in that same period this year.

Among the big drivers of those numbers is English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, whose album "÷" (the mathematical divide symbol) is the most-streamed album, with 1.1 million equivalent album units to date, while his hit single “Shape of You” is the biggest selling song with 1.58 million downloads.

The most-streamed song to date is Georgia hip-hop group Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” featuring Lil Uzi Vert, posting 464.7 billion on-demand audio and video streams.

Sheeran’s album is the only one to surpass the 1-million mark so far this year. The rest of the Top 5 best-selling collections are Drake’s “More Life,” with 832,000 units; the Weeknd’s “Starboy” (651,000); Migos’ “Culture” (618,000); and Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic” (604,000).

On the vinyl front, the biggest-selling vinyl LP for the first quarter is the soundtrack from “La La Land,” which has tallied sales of 25,000 physical albums.

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