The other day I received a chart from one of my PR sources that purported to show how music is being consumed and what forms for media people are using to access their music. It shows some interesting differences between how fans of different types of music choose different ways to access their music. If you click on the small picture of the chart it will expand to readability.
Since the first column in the chart is overall album sales, from both digital and physical albums, I’ll look at that first. Pop and Rock are the leaders in this category, with pop seizing 26.3% of total sales while rock garnered 26.5%, leaving all other genres way behind.
The next largest category in album sales was country with 12.9% followed by R&B with only 7.3 %. Reggae had the lowest amount of album sales, getting only 0.6% with new age following close behind with 0.7%.
If we look at only digital album downloads and physical album sales separately the numbers don’t change much. Pop and Rock percentages drop slightly while other genres gain some small amount of additional sales.
We only begin to see changes in buying patterns when we move over to vinyl sales. There Rock jumps up to 41.7% of all vinyl while other genres, such as World Music, which drops from .8% of albums to only 0.1% of vinyl. The drop in children’s music is even more precipitous, from 1.1% to only .1%. In point of fact the only genres to increase when it comes to vinyl besides Rock were jazz, R&B and hip-hop.
Song Sales, which I assume means the sales of individual tracks, shows some changes in purchasing patterns. Pop Music holds its position with 25.6% of the market. Rock Music drops down to only 15.1% of total sales while R&B rises to 10.3%, hip-hop to 14.7%, and country to 14.6%.
The inference from these numbers is that rock fans have a strong preference for buying entire albums as opposed to singles while pop, country, R&B and hip-hop fans prefer to buy singles.
When we move over to streaming things change drastically. First let’s look at audio-only streams. Hip-hop and Rap increase their market share from a low of 3.7% of album sales and 6.6% of vinyl sales to a whopping 26.9%! That means that more than one of every four songs streamed is hip-hop or rap! Perhaps Tidal’s homepage emphasis on hip-hop and rap comes from some place other than their principal owner’s tastes. Another big winner in terms of percentage increase, was latin music, which went from album sales of only 1.5% to 5.8% of audio streams (and 21.8% of video streams!). Jazz 0.8% and classical with 0.8% are the least popular genres for streaming. Only new age music has a lower engagement figure of only 0.6%.
So, what can we infer from these numbers? First off, we see that hip-hop and R&B fans consume far more of their music via streaming than any other way. We can also see that jazz and classical fans are not embracing streaming with the same fervor as they do digital and physical albums.
Another way to look at these numbers is that fans of older musical genres prefer older delivery methods while fans of newer genres (who will probably have a younger overall demographic) are using more streaming content.
While some genres will never make a big impression or generate big changes in numbers sales-wise, such as new age, children’s, and world, others have seen major changes in their sales percentages. Rock fans continue to buy albums and vinyl and have been much slower to adopt streaming than R&B, Pop, and hip-hop fans. This could be caused by rock’s older demographic refusing to adapt to streaming, or their preference for entire albums over singles (as indicated by the drop in singles sales among rock fans.)
I suppose one could make an argument that these trends are a natural progression of young folks’ preferences for streaming and hip-hop. And while we oldsters can look at “the vinyl renaissance” with some hope that a love of physical media passes on to younger generations, these numbers indicate that they may be fighting a rear-guard action fueled primarily by re-releases and nostalgia.
The big numbers in streaming and big money is going into hip-hop, rap, and pop, and unless the planet decides to go into mitosis, I don’t see this changing any time soon…