Taylor Swift has the ear of Apple, and by far the top album of 2015 thus far.
The pop superstar’s crossover smash “1989" has sold the equivalent of 2 million units in the U.S., including track downloads and streams, according to Nielsen Music. That’s 580,000 more than her closest rival, Drake’s “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late."
The feat is all the more impressive, considering “1989" came out in October 2014 and had plenty of time to lose steam before the beginning of this year. The Nielsen report covered the period from Dec. 29, 2014, to June 28.
British producer Mark Ronson had the top-selling single, “Uptown Funk,” featuring singer Bruno Mars. The old-school boogie-fueled track sold 4.88 million units and was streamed 368 million times in the first half of the year.
On the albums chart, Ed Sheeran’s “X” was No. 3 with the equivalent of 1.42 million units moved. Fourth place went to the “Fifty Shades of Grey” soundtrack, and in fifth was Sam Smith’s “In the Lonely Hour."
Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” was the No. 2-selling song, followed by Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” (feat. Charlie Puth) from the movie “Furious 7.” Maroon 5’s “Sugar” and Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do” rounded out the top five.
Swift’s clout has gone well beyond the Billboard charts this year. She used her popularity last month to help persuade Apple to reverse a royalty payments policy before the launch of its new streaming music service.
The country singer-turned pop diva was noticeably absent from Nielsen’s audio streaming rankings, thanks to her withholding her latest album from services such as Rdio and Tidal. She pulled all her music from popular Swedish service Spotify last year. But she has allowed "1989" to appear on Apple Music.
Swift notwithstanding, Nielsen’s midyear report shows that streaming is growing in a big way. On-demand streams on services such as Beats Music, Google Play Music and Rhapsody jumped 92% to 135 billion in the first six months of the year.
Meanwhile, album sales dropped 4% to 116 million units and digital track downloads declined 10% to 532 million.
The surge in streaming propelled total U.S. music consumption up 14% versus the same period last year, Nielsen said. The data firm measures unit sales and equivalents, not revenue, so the report did not indicate whether the industry enjoyed a corresponding bump in dollar terms.
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