A banner year for on-demand audio streaming in the United States and a new milestone for vinyl sales are two of the main topics of discussion in MRC Data year-end report 2021, released this morning by the industry’s leading tracking service, but the continued increase in catalog feeds and sales – that is, records older than 18 months – is another notable metric in the report. , this category representing more than 74% of music consumption during the year.
US audio streams recorded 988.1 billion plays between January 1 and December 30, while on-demand audio and video streams combined weighed 1.13 trillion, up 9.9% from 2020. The MRC report shows global growth of 26.3% for on-demand audio streams in 2020, weighing 2.74 trillion plays.
And, for the first time since MRC established its store as SoundScan in 1991, vinyl was the music industry’s top-selling physical product, with a configuration up 51.4% to 41.4%. , 7 million, narrowly beating the former longtime leader – CD – over a million units, although CD sales rose 1.1%.
It wasn’t all good news: On-demand audio and video streams grew at a significantly slower rate than in 2020 – 9.9% in 2021 compared to a 17% gain caused by the pandemic the year latest – and a 19.4% drop in current product flows, the first time this has happened since MRC started timing flows. But discerning observers see a lot to applaud in the report.
“The 2020 lockdown pandemic highs would certainly be difficult to achieve the following year, so I would have expected more of a moderation in 2021, compared to 2020,” said Daniel Ives, chief executive officer of research. shares at Wedbush Securities. “The robust numbers show that streaming music continues to experience accelerated growth. “
An executive vice president of a major record company intervenes: “When the pandemic started in 2020, people were leaning a lot more into music. Obviously we were beyond the start [streaming] adaptation phase and enter the maturity phase, but the pandemic has drawn in people who would have signed up for streaming in 2022 or 2023, and brought them down the funnel more quickly. There was an initial fear in the industry that people would opt out of subscription plans, ”he concludes,“ when in fact it has accelerated ”.
Adele, Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo were among the artists who took center stage in 2021, but the most-consumed album of the year was from a country artist who spent much of the year in the niche, “Dangerous: The Double Album, by Morgan Wallen,” which racked up 3.2 million album units (reflecting digital and physical sales, plus the equivalent value of songs released and sold), easily surpassing the finalist “Sour “from rookie Rodrigo with 2.8 million.
Wallen and Rodrigo’s were the only albums to surpass 2 million project units in 2021, up from four to 2 million or more in 2020. Wallen fell out of favor in January when TMZ shared a video of Morgan shouting a racial insult, which got him banned from most radio stations for most of the year and persona non grata on awards shows, but still managed to lead the pack in 2021, as he did in the MRC mid-year report.
After Wallen and Rodrigo among the most consumed albums of 2021 are “Certified Lover Boy” by Drake with 1.97 million equivalent units, “30” by Adele (1.94 million), “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon “by Pop Smoke (1.53 million),” Planet Her “by Doja Cat (1.51 million),” F * ck Love “by Kid Laroi (1.5 million),” Justice “by Justin Bieber (1.47 million), “Future Nostalgia” by Lipa (1.4 million) and the Weeknd’s 2020 release “After Hours” (1.34 million).
Wallen’s “Dangerous” and Rodrigo’s “Sour” each topped the top two albums of 2020 – Lil Baby’s “My Turn” (2.6 million) and Grammy-winning “folklore” by Swift (2.2 million) – but the rest of the top 10 of 2021 each fall below the totals compiled from the similarly ranked albums of 2020.
In sales alone, Adele’s “30”, which was only released on November 19, still leads the pack with 1.46 million physical and digital copies. It was also the best-selling physical album (1.2 million), vinyl album (318,000) and digital album (245,000 sold).
Swift, whose “Folklore” was the best-selling album of 2020 with 1.3 million physical and digital copies, owns four of this year’s top 10, with the re-recording “Red (Taylor’s Version)” moving 621,000, good for second place. His “Evermore” is fourth with 529,000, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is fifth with 521,000 and“ Folklore ”is eighth seller with 304,000.
MRC notes that in just eight months, Swift’s re-recorded version of “Fearless” compiled 664.6 million streams, almost doubling the 333,000 released in 2021 from its original 2008 release.
Dua Lipa’s “Levitating”, from her 2020 album “Future Nostalgia”, tops the 2021 digital song consumption recap with 5.7 million project units, combining song sales with the equivalent value of streams (where 125 subscription reads or 375 ad-supported reads equals one sale). Rodrigo had the second and third most consumed songs, with “Drivers License” at 5 million units and “Good 4 U” at 4.8 million.
Despite the growth of the stream industry, each of the top seven songs of 2021 was less followed than those of 2020, when Roddy Rich’s “The Box” ruled with 7.6 million over runner-up The Weeknd, with 6 million dollars. ‘units for “Blinding Lights”. The latter is showing endurance, ranking 10 th for 2021 with 3.7 million units.
Sandwiched between Lipa and Rodrigo’s two songs and Weeknd’s hit, the fourth to ninth tracks in the top 10 for digital song consumption in 2021 behind Lipa and Rodrigo’s two songs: “Save Your Tears” by Weeknd and Ariana Grande (4.79 million equivalent units)), “Stay” by Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber (4.4 million), “Astronaut in the Ocean” by Masked Wolf (4.16 million), Doja Cat with ” Kiss Me More ”by SZA (4.15 million),“ Montero (Call) by Lil Nas X Me By Your Name) ”(4.13 million) and“ Heat Waves ”by Glass Animal (4.1 million).
The MRC report shows global growth of 26.3% for on-demand audio streams in 2020, weighing 2.74 trillion plays.
Catalog music – songs over 18 months old – has swelled every year in the United States since streaming became the driving force of the industry in 2016, but never to the extent of this year’s 74.5%, in 8.1% increase over the previous year, reflecting a 24.8% volume gain. Part of this ongoing shift has to do with the contrast between today’s market, where streaming measures consumer listening, versus all those years when industry data reflected music purchases. . Moreover, if the relatively late albums of successful artists such as Adele, Ed Sheeran and Silk Sonic had released a few months earlier, the catalog percentage might not have been so dramatically high.
Larry Miller, director of the music business program at New York University’s Steinhardt, says the huge catalog display in the 2021 report validates “the trend we saw in the mid-year report, when industry watchers were surprised by the catalog consumption that was occurring, with a drop in current music consumption offset by a tidal wave in catalog listening, which I think the can be assigned to multiple engines.
“One is the recent and subsequent adoption of on-demand streaming by older music fans and I think the general surprise is the deep attachment to familiar music that all music lovers have, but especially during this pandemic. surprisingly long and persistent. I think older, more familiar music makes people feel good, ”Miller adds.
A generational breakdown offered by the MRC report, in which the consumption of Gen Z, Gen Y, Gen X and baby boomers in the United States and 11 other countries highlights one of Miller’s premises. , with 89% of consumers born from 1947 to 1965 using steam services, by far the highest share among a dozen countries. After the United States, the highest share of baby boomers is 75% in Mexico, the lowest in demographics in Japan at just 34%.
The aforementioned label manager cites the discovery of older songs via TikTok and longer shelf life by titles like “Levitating” by Lipa and “Blinding Lights” by Weeknd as the growing part of the catalog of additional factors. “The catalog spills over to the front line. “Levitation” is almost two years old; it’s technically a catalog, although I could say it’s still relevant, ”he says.
“These kids don’t know or don’t care if it’s a catalog,” he adds. “If you’re 15 or 18 and a song came out five years ago when you were 10 or 13 and you have no idea who the artist is, if you hear it on TikTok, it’s new. Essentially, TikTok is a giant sync platform, and if you know how to sync music with emotional feeling on a video, that will make it even louder.
While the catalog’s high share may alarm some, NYU’s Miller and Wedbush’s Ives say this segment’s performance is a detail that will encourage, rather than dismay, investors who have fallen in love with the music industry in recent years. years, as evidenced by the public offering approaching $ 53 billion when it began trading in September.
The gains recorded by older music since streaming became the main driver of the industry also account for the continued appetite for catalog publishing and recording, as evidenced by recent deals for the works of David Bowie. , Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon.
“This explains why the price of catalog content is increasing for branded artists. It’s just another data point for the uptrend we’re seeing for list prices in music, ”says Ives.
Miller agrees. “If I’m a financial investor and primarily acquire a catalog that has already achieved a steady state of performance over a long period of time, I look at this growth in catalog consumption and feel pretty good about it. Miller said. “Although some industry watchers predicted a slowdown in catalog acquisitions after the end of 2021, the volume of transactions occurring even in this first week of the New Year is enormous.
He concludes: “The interest in this asset class” – the music – “does not stop. “
Read the full report here.