Global Music Streaming, Stateside Vinyl Sales Experienced Massive Growth During 2021’s Initial Half

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Photo Credit: James Sutton

During 2021’s initial half, global song streams hiked by about 27.5 percent, whereas overall U.S. album sales grew substantially thanks in large part to 108.2 percent year-over-year vinyl LP sales growth, according to a newly released music industry report.

MRC Data shed light upon these and other telling music industry trends in its mid-year analysis, covering January 1st through July 1st of 2021. Worth noting here is that the entity’s report for the first half of 2020 tracked a pandemic-prompted decline in total album sales (down 25 percent YoY across March 13th and July 2nd), digital album sales (down 14.3 percent during the six-month stretch), and physical album sales (down 20.3 percent).

Even so, 2020’s first half expanded upon vinyl’s almost 15 years of consecutive growth, with vinyl LP sales having jumped 11.2 percent YoY, against a 12.9 percent uptick in digital album-equivalent consumption in the United States.

Notwithstanding the relatively solid music industry figures that 2020’s first half brought with it, Q1 and Q2 2021 ushered in continued growth in every streaming category, per MRC Data’s breakdown.

As initially mentioned, global song streams enjoyed a 27.5 percent YoY boost, finishing at 1.3 trillion through 2021’s opening six months. Similarly, U.S. on-demand song streaming (covering both audio and video platforms) improved by 10.8 percent YoY, to 555.3 billion played tracks.

Domestic “total album consumption” – encompassing albums proper, track-equivalent albums (10 digital tracks per album), and stream-equivalent albums (1,250 premium streams/3,750 ad-supported streams per album) – experienced a 13.5 percent gain from 2020’s first half, at 434.7 million. And “U.S. total digital music consumption,” consisting this time of digital albums, TEAs, and on-demand SEAs, grew by 11.6 percent year over year, to 396.3 million.

In spite (and seemingly because) of these streaming boosts, global digital song sales continued their years-running decline, falling 12.5 percent YoY, to 190.5 million. U.S. digital album sales declined by a noteworthy 26.8 percent from 2020’s opening two quarters, to 12.9 million.

Regarding the top-performing albums (by total sales) through July 1st, Taylor Swift’s Evermore claimed the uppermost spot on the “top albums” chart, with 374,000 units moved, followed by Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album (241,000 units).

The latter was “the most popular album of the year across all genres and the top Country album, with 2,108,000 equivalent album units earned.” Bearing the point in mind, Wallen also led the pack in digital album sales, with 135,000 units, to 90,000 units for Fearless (Taylor’s Version), according to the breakdown.

Also worth highlighting on this front is that today’s number-two music industry by revenue, Japan, finished first on MRC Data’s list of “fastest growing global streaming markets” by audio streaming volume, beating second-ranked Poland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Belgium, respectively.

Amid this “meaningful transition into the streaming era,” which saw physical slide by nine percent between 2019 and 2020 – as streaming earnings rocketed by 27 percent – total music industry revenue actually declined by 2.1 percent in the nation of about 126 million residents, per the IFPI’s 2021 Global Music Report. Moreover, back to the MRC Data report, an April of 2021 study of Japanese music consumers “found that 64% of music listeners in Japan are using free music streaming services…In the U.S. this figure is 88%.”

Perhaps the most significant music industry takeaway from MRC Data’s 2021 HY report is the stellar performance of vinyl, which hiked by 108.2 percent in U.S. sales volume, to 19.2 million units, as mentioned.

In doing so, the long-gaining format managed to spur a 37.5 percent bump to stateside physical album sales (38.3 million units) during the six-month window, as well as a 12.6 percent improvement to U.S. total album sales (51.3 million units), even with the aforementioned falloff in digital album sales.

“For the first time at the midyear point in MRC Data’s history (since 1991),” the text states, “vinyl album sales outpace CD album sales – with vinyl album volume at 19.2 million versus CD album volume at 18.9 million.” Swift’s Evermore was the top vinyl album during the period (143,000 units sold), to Harry Styles’ second-ranked Fine Line (125,000 units sold) and the third place Good Kid M.A.A.D City by Kendrick Lamar (99,000 units sold).

Lastly, Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License” pulled down a staggering 582.8 million on-demand streams across the half-year window, and subsidiaries of the stock market-bound Universal Music released seven of the 10 top albums (by sales) throughout the period, excepting Harry Styles’ Fine Line (SME/Columbia), the Foo Fighters’ Medicine at Midnight (SME’s RCA), and BTS’s Be (Big Hit).

On the latter front, BTS ARMY diehards elevated “Butter” to 841,000 digital sales (for the top spot on the corresponding list), with “Dynamite” placing second thanks to its 283,000 digital sales. The tracks’ cumulative digital-sales total, over 1.12 million, comes out to more than the combined sales of the list’s next five songs.