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Rap Is Leading the Music Industry’s Resurgence

Nielsen report finds continued growth in streaming – led, again, by hip-hop and R&B

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Post Malone's 'beerbongs & bentleys' is the top-selling album of 2018 so far.

Amy Harris/Invision/AP/REX Shutterstock

Here’s music to everybody’s ears: The U.S. record industry – which is only just beginning to recover from a dismal two-decade slide – continues to be on the upswing. In the first half of 2018, total consumption in both streams and sales grew 18 percent, according to Nielsen’s mid-year report released Friday morning.

The business is, as described by Nielsen Music general manager Erin Crawford, “still in the thick of an exciting growth spurt.” In 2016, thanks mostly to the explosion of music streaming, the U.S. music industry saw double-digit growth for the first time in nearly two decades despite the decline of traditional album sales; the year after, the business continued to grow and major label groups saw revenues climb to 15-year highs. Music streaming is now more popular than ever, with on-demand music and video streams totaling a record 403.4 billion in just the first half of 2018, representing a market growth of 41.6 percent, according to Nielsen.

The music leading the way? Hip-hop and R&B – a rapid-rising genre that, with 31 percent of the market, is definitively the most popular music in the country these days. (Rock & roll, which led for decades, ceded the throne in 2017 and is now at 23 percent.) It’s not surprising, then, that acts like Post Malone and Cardi B are dominant in the mid-year tally – or that Drake’s “God’s Plan” has been the most-streamed song of the year so far, nabbing 1.1 billion streams across audio and video.

As big as it is, music streaming’s user base can’t grow infinitely, and some are already wondering if the surge in popularity might be approaching a slowdown. But Nielsen’s report also offers small flickers of hope to the non-streaming part of the industry: It reveals that this year’s Record Store Day helped independent music stores sell a record-high 733,000 LPs and that the slow-burning revival of vinyl continues, with sales up 19 percent in the first half of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.

Below are the top 10 albums of 2018 so far, as measured by total equivalent album units. (Under this metric, one traditional album sale is counted the same way as 10 song downloads or 1,500 song streams – though the rules now differ slightly for how music is tallied on the charts.)

  1. Post Malone – beerbongs & bentleys (1,791,000)
  2. Soundtrack – The Greatest Showman (1,602,000)
  3. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy (1,113,000)
  4. Migos – Culture II (1,088,000)
  5. Soundtrack – Black Panther: The Album (1,058,000)
  6. Ed Sheeran – ÷ (Divide) (845,000)
  7. J. Cole – KOD (794,000)
  8. Post Malone – Stoney (788,000)
  9. XXXTentacion – ? (769,000)
  10. Justin Timberlake – Man of the Woods (664,000)

In This Article: Hip Hop, music industry

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