Drake’s ‘Views’ Was the Most Popular Album of 2016 as Streaming Surpasses Digital Sales


The streaming era is upon us and Drake is leading the charge.

The Toronto rapper’s Grammy-nominated Views was the most popular album of 2016, according to Nielsen Music’s year-end report, which tracked the 12-month period ending Dec. 29, 2016. After its exclusive release on Apple Music in late April, his fourth studio effort spent 13 nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart and sold 4.1 million equivalent album units to date.

The total reflects a tracking metric adopted by Billboard in 2014, which counts 1,500 song streams as one album sale and 10 digital track sales as a single album sold. Views amassed 1.6 million traditional album sales, 5.1 million song downloads and — most tellingly — 3 billion streams.

“The metric for success has changed,” says David Bakula, Nielsen Entertainment’s senior vice president of analytics. With streams now comprising 38% of total audio consumption, “album sales can’t be the only metric anymore and Drake really embodies that shift of consumption.”

Audio streaming grew 76% over 2015, surpassing total digital sales for the first time in history with 250 billion streams for the year. Overall album sales fell 16.7%, with physical albums sold (118.3 million) outpacing digital (82.2 million). Individual song downloads also dropped 25% to 723.7 million, selling nearly 200 million less than 2015 (964.4 million).

“The speed at which the industry is changing continues to be a little surprising, just how quickly things are moving over to streaming,” Bakula says. “The digital consumer seems to have really embraced access over ownership, in terms of the drops we’re seeing in digital sales.”

But sales haven’t completely gone the way of the dinosaur. Just look at Adele’s 25, which was the second-most-popular album of 2016 with 2.4 million equivalent album units sold. Eliminate its streams and track sales, and 25 actually sold more albums than Views (1.7 million copies). With 9.2 million copies sold since its late 2015 release, 25 is now only the second album in Nielsen Music history to top the sales chart for two consecutive years. The other? Adele’s 21, in both 2011 and 2012.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Patrick Ryan

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