Drake's hip-hop album opens at No. 1

What A Time To Be Alive, a mix-tape album by Drake(above) and Future, sold 334,000 albums and 172,000 songs, and songs from the album were streamed 40.3 million times around the world in its first week.
What A Time To Be Alive, a mix-tape album by Drake(above) and Future, sold 334,000 albums and 172,000 songs, and songs from the album were streamed 40.3 million times around the world in its first week. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • On this week's music charts, What A Time To Be Alive, a new mix tape by star rappers Drake and Future, opened at No. 1 by a wide margin, it was announced on Monday - a victory for Apple, which had an exclusive deal to release the album first.

The tape, announced by Drake on Instagram on Sept 19 and released the next day, sold 334,000 albums and 172,000 songs, according to Nielsen. Songs from the album were streamed 40.3 million times around the world in its first week, including 35.1 million times in the United States, according to Apple.

The album's success is also the latest example of the extraordinary popularity of hip-hop on streaming music services. Throughout this year, on outlets such as Spotify, Rhapsody and Apple Music, releases by hip-hop and rhythm-and-blues acts including Drake, Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd have consistently posted far higher numbers than those in other genres.

Those results reflect a banner year for hip-hop and R&B music, with a crop of acclaimed albums and a generation of influential stars. But music executives say they are also an indication of the way that listeners consume music these days, with hip-hop's younger, mobile-connected audience leading a shift away from downloads.

Earlier this year, Drake's If You're Reading This It's Too Late was streamed 48 million times in one week, according to Nielsen.

Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly opened with 38 million and The Weeknd's Beauty Behind The Madness started with 57 million one week and 52 million the next.

By comparison, the best week for a rock act this year was Mumford & Sons' Wilder Mind, with 15.4 million in May. Back in 2012, Mumford & Sons set an early record on Spotify when their album Babel opened with eight million streams in the US.

Unlike downloads or CD sales, which are both slowing, streaming services show how many times fans actually listen to the songs they select. For the first eight months of the year, hip-hop and R&B songs - which are often connected on so-called urban radio formats, and tracked together by data services - represented 17 per cent of album sales, but 26 per cent of all streams, according to Nielsen.

On Spotify, hip-hop's share of the top 500 artists is up 16 per cent from last year, and 24 per cent since 2012, according to that service. On Pandora, the leading Internet radio service, four of the top five acts with the most "station adds" - the number of times listeners choose the names of the artists, or their songs, for listening - are hip-hop and urban. The only other top act is Taylor Swift, according to Next Big Sound, a data tracking service owned by Pandora.

Overall, the number of songs listened to on streaming services such as Spotify, Rhapsody and Apple Music, where users choose the songs they listen to, doubled in the first eight months of this year compared with the same period last year, according to Nielsen, while song downloads were down 10 per cent and album downloads were flat.

NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2015, with the headline 'Drake's hip-hop album opens at No. 1'. Print Edition | Subscribe