What Are the Most Popular Music Genres In America?

Many Music Genres

What are the most popular music genres in America?

Here’s a breakdown of music genres from Nielsen Music, which compiled every sale across CDs, vinyl, digital downloads, and streaming to calculate which types of music are most popular.

Here’s what they found:

I. Overall: CDs + vinyl + downloads + streaming

US, 2015.  Source: Nielsen Music.

Breakdown of Musical Genres, 2015

Interestingly, Rock tops the list by a wide margin, though Rap/Hip-Hop isn’t far behind.  Interestingly, Spotify counted Rap/Hip-Hop as its most the popular of its music genres in 2015, though Spotify users may represent a younger subset of music listeners.

II. Albums: CDs + vinyl.

US, 2015.  Source: Nielsen Music.

Breakdown of Musical Genres, 2015

Perhaps unsurprisingly, older formats lean towards older music genres.  And, Rock certainly pre-dates Rap/Hip-Hop, though its origins are equally controversial and generation-defining.  Incidentally, Rock tends to dominate vinyl sales, where formats like Rap/Hip-Hop don’t do so well (and, sales of EDM are almost nonexistent).

As for CD sales, shiny discs are still sold in the billions, though their buyers are typically older (and less interested in iTunes downloads or Spotify streams).

So how was all of this information calculated, you ask?

III. The Methodology.

All of these genre categorizations were determined by Nielsen, and counted by format accordingly.  In terms of delivery format, Nielsen counts each CD album and vinyl album, then aggregates all downloads and streams in to ‘Equivalent Albums’ to make ‘Track Equivalent Albums’ and ‘Streaming Equivalent Albums’.

Specifically, a ‘Track Equivalent Album’ counts ten songs from an album as an album unit, with the same methodology applied to streamed tracks.  The results can create some distortions because it isn’t counting every single track, though it does created an arguable method for comparing digital formats to CD-based and vinyl-based purchases.

And, for more fun with music genres, check out just how well different genres sell on different platforms.


10 Responses

  1. Me

    What constitutes “Rock” these days? Most of the stuff I hear on “modern rock” stations are either dance songs or pop-country songs disguised as rock tracks.

  2. Anonymous

    Well there’s your answer to why music isn’t selling- labels aren’t providing good new artists in the most popular genre.

    • Jim

      That seems to be it. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s the Labels fault. The Radio Stations are more at fault. If you look at the Billboard 200, you’ll see a lot of classic rock acts that were played on Top 40 stations back in the day. If you look back over really old top 40 playlists you’ll see the classic rock that people are still buying and stuff that people don’t buy that is not rock. And today, top 40 is 100% stuff that people won’t be buying, and no rock.

      People do want new rock, people do want top 40 to play rock. The people in charge of almost everything big today basically all suck. Is there any area where you could argue that things are actually improved? Everything is getting worse. It’s because the people in charge suck. It seems to be an economy and government based on bribes. How do you get on the radio? There are definitely bribes involved there.

  3. Tom

    Anything that has rock outselling hip hop and EDM combined is complete crap. Sorry.


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