Streaming music in United States up 93 per cent in 2015; Adele tops album sales

Copies of Adele's record-busting album 25 are displayed at a Target store in Jersey City, New Jersey on Nov. 27, 2015.
Copies of Adele's record-busting album 25 are displayed at a Target store in Jersey City, New Jersey on Nov. 27, 2015.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - US music consumers almost doubled their use of streaming services in 2015, with Apple Inc's new Apple music platform helping boost volume a record 93 per cent, Nielsen Music said on Wednesday.

Music consumers used on-demand streaming platforms to listen to 317 billion songs, exceeding projections. Physical album sales declined again, with British singer Adele's 25 providing a bright spot in an otherwise dreary market.

"The amount of exposure Apple gave to streaming can't be understated," said Mr David Bakula, senior vice-president of industry insights at Nielsen Entertainment.

About 241 million albums were purchased last year, a 6 per cent drop from 2014; 103 million albums were bought in digital formats and nearly 12 per cent of all albums were bought on vinyl.

Rock music accounted for a third of the albums sold over 2015, while pop music dominated singles.

But while streaming dominated the music industry with large-scale platforms including Google Play, Amazon Prime Music and Spotify, two of the year's biggest-selling albums, Adele's 25 and Taylor Swift's 1989, were strategically kept off streaming services.

Adele's 25 smashed opening week sales records in November and has clocked a total of 7.4 million albums sold by year end. Taylor Swift had the second biggest-selling album of the year with her 1989 record selling just under two million copies.

"What works for Adele and Taylor Swift doesn't necessarily work for everyone else," Mr Bakula said, suggesting the two were exceptions to the rule and that most artists still turned to streaming for a part of their sales.

The third biggest-selling album of the year, Justin Bieber's Purpose, smashed streaming records in November, with 205 million global streams in its debut week.

Mr Bakula added there was "no question" that streaming had helped curb the online piracy of music that severely hurt the industry in the early 2000s with platforms such as Napster.

R&B and hip hop music accounted for 21 per cent of the 317 billion streams consumed on on-demand platforms, and artists such as Drake, Future, The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar delivered some of the year's top-selling and best-received records.

A steady increase in vinyl sales seemingly defies the masses of consumers flocking to streaming platforms.

"Vinyl is driven by independent record stores and consumers who are into sound quality and tangible, physical products," Mr Bakula said. "Everything about the technology revolution is counterintuitive to vinyl sales, and yet, it still increases."