Nielsen Music recently released its annual mid-year report, which takes a look at how the music industry is doing halfway through the year and lists which songs and albums are performing the best. This time around, the report revealed some fairly unsurprising stats, including the fact that streaming is still exploding, Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You” is the most popular track and Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. is the album that the American public simply can’t get enough of. All of those could have been predicted, but there is one standout piece of information embedded in the document that is somewhat shocking.
For the first time since Nielsen started measuring music consumption in the United States, rock is no longer the top genre in terms of overall consumption. Instead, the combined genre of R&B and hip-hop has taken the crown, and while the two styles are fairly close to one another when it comes to percentages, the latter has pulled ahead, and it seems like it will continue to distance itself from the competition in the coming months and years.
According to the report, R&B and hip-hop are now responsible for 25.1% of all music consumption in the U.S., while rock claims 23%. Looking at the rest of the numbers listed that dissect how people are consuming these styles of music, it’s clear that streaming is to thank for the swap in ranking. Rock is far and away the winner when it comes to album sales—the genre claims 40% of all album sales in the country—but the total number of records actually purchased dwindles every year, so while that percentage may remain steady or even climb, it’s not representative of how Americans are truly consuming music.
Hip-hop/R&B, on the other hand, is responsible for just over 29% of all on-demand streams across the country, and that is the only field that is growing noticeably. In fact, R&B/hip-hop is almost as popular on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music than the next two genres (rock and pop) combined. At least seven of the top 10 most popular songs on streaming platforms in 2017 fit squarely into the hip-hop field, while another, Bruno Mars' "That's What I Like," blends pop and R&B.
Probably no one who reads this blog will be surprised that I really hate the Ed Sheeran song and have riffed on revisions that include lines such as "I'm in love with your kidneys", "I'm in love with your Achille's tendon", "I'm in love with your ligaments", or "I'm in love with your lower intestine."
Meanwhile, very probably classical and jazz are at the bottom of the sales listings like they were a few years ago. Now might be a time to point out that if high art musical idioms like jazz and classical have comparatively 1 or 2 percent of the sales they at least have that prestige, right? Or do they even have that? That's something I might write about more later ... maybe.