Data can tell us a lot of things, and if we look at it with an eye to the future, it can tell us what’s trending and what’s not. MRC Data and Billboard teamed up for their annual Midyear Report for 2021, and it really tells us a lot about the current trends in music.
The Next Big Things
Every label, agent, manager and artist wants to know what the next big thing is going to be so they can ride the wave. Sometimes that’s possible, as in the case of rock to grunge; and sometimes it’s not, as in the case of K-pop, which has a lot of dance elements but is unique unto itself.
- According to the study, the next big music trend is Afro-Pop. Artists like Burna Boy, Davido and Wizkid have already had hits and won substantial followings in the U.S., and it’s already gained a stronghold in countries like France (30% listen to Afro-Pop), Spain and even Japan. The genre is gaining fans in the demographic where it counts the most – the 13 to 34 age group.
- The other thing that’s trending up is Chill-Themed playlists, that have surged 21% on New Age genres and 21% on Classical. Both outpaced other genres by quite a bit.
Song Streaming Still Up
- Globally, on-demand song streams from platforms like Spotify and Apple Music have risen 27% to 1.3 trillion in the first half of the year alone! In the U.S. that increase isn’t as much, coming in at around 11% and 555 billion.
- Physical album sales are up 37% to around 38 million, but that includes vinyl.
- Speaking of vinyl, LP sales are up a whopping 108% to 19.2 million. The problem is that for all the demand (and it’s very high right now), there’s a limit to how much more the format can grow, since there’s a shortage of PVC that’s needed to make the vinyl, a shortage of lacquers due to the Apollo Masters fire, a shortage of pressing plant labor, and pressing plants around the world stretched to capacity.
And Some Things Are Way Down
- Digital album sales continue to drop like a rock, down almost 27% to just 12.9 million. It makes you wonder why anyone would even consider recording an album these days.
- U.S. digital track sales are down another 20% to 102 million, but I’m shocked it’s still that high. This is a genre that should disappear completely in 5 years.
- Livestreaming is way down after a booming 2020, thanks to so many people being homebound due to the pandemic. Zoom fatigue is very real though, and people really want to experience live music again, which has caused livestreaming to drop by 28% over last year. That’s still up from 2019, but it looks like the boom is over.
- The most streamed and consumed song was Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License” with 583 million streams(!), while her album Sour’s 11 other tracks tallied another 301 million. That’s almost a billion streams from an artist that no one knew about a year ago.
- Taylor Swift sold 102,000 copies of her vinyl release Fearless (Taylor’s Version) in the first week alone. The previous leader had been Jack White’s Lazaretto with 40,000. Taylor also had 143 million streams during that first week. This shows that an artist of Swift’s stature can bring back a 10 year old album and still have it become a hit.
- Speaking of old releases, Lady Gaga’s The Fame remains as popular as ever more than 12 years after its release. It was the most consumed Dance/Electronic album of the first half of the year with more than 181 million album equivalent units.
- On the pure country side of things, Morgan Wallen’s double album Dangerous topped the charts with 2.1 million equivalent album units earned (1,500 streams equal 1 album equivalent unit).
Remember that the data and current trends are only for the United States and doesn’t necessarily apply to the rest of the world.