Music streaming up, sales down again during first half of 2016

Drake performs at a 2015 show at the Forum in Inglewood.
(Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Negative signs outnumber the positives among the measurements of the music business during the first half of 2016, the big plus being that audio streaming activity surpassed video streaming, making it the dominant streaming choice for consumers.

Data released by Nielsen Music, which tracks music sales and streaming activity in the U.S., showed sales down significantly in all formats except for vinyl, which continues to surge as a small slice of the overall pie.

In particular, digital album sales dropped more than 18%, and digital tracks were off nearly 24% compared with the first half of 2015, as consumers increasingly shift from owning music to renting it by way of subscriptions to streaming services such as Spotify, Tidal and others.


When all sales and streaming activity are combined, Nielsen reports an increase of 8.9% in overall “album consumption,” which credits sales of 10 individual tracks from any album as a single track-equivalent album, or TEA, sale, while 1,500 streams from tracks on an individual album is chalked up as a single streaming-equivalent-album (or SEA) sale.

The greatest growth came with on-demand streaming, which increased nearly 59% , with audio streaming nearly doubling -- up 97.4%, from 57.5 billion streams in the first half of 2015 to 113.6 billion during the same time period this year. On-demand video streaming, by comparison, rose 28.6%, from 74.1 billion in the first six months last year to 95.3 billion this year.

In terms of consumption, which factors in sales and streaming figures, this year’s biggest albums as calculated by Billboard six months in are Drake’s “Views” , Adele’s “25” and Beyoncé’s “Lemonade”.

Just counting sales without the streaming element factored in, Billboard’s chart of the year’s biggest albums so far shows “25” at the top with 1.4 million copies, “Views” at 1.3 million, “Lemonade” at 1.2 million and country artist Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller” at No. 4 with sales of 746,000 copies.

The album sales tally registered three albums spurred by the deaths of artists, with “Very Best of Prince” at No. 5 on sales of 575,000 copies, David Bowie’s “Blackstar” at No. 8 with 478,000 copies and Prince’s “Purple Rain” placing No. 9 with 413,000 copies.

Bowie’s album was the top-selling vinyl LP in a period that saw vinyl continuing to grow, up nearly 12% over 2015, as consumers purchased 6.2 million LPs versus 5.6 million in the first half of each year.


Flo Rida’s “My House” ranks as the top digital song so far this year, with sales of 1.9 million, while Drake’s “One Dance” featuring WizKid and Kyla tops the digital-song-consumption ranking with “total song volume” of almost 3.4 million, which merges sales of 1.4 million with more than 286 million audio streams.

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