Nielsen Music has released its annual report of music industry sales figures, and the news is good thanks to the growth of streaming. Music sales experienced an uptick of 3 percent compared to those in 2015, despite a plunge in the sale of digital downloads and physical units.

Streaming Shows Huge Growth

2016 was the year that streaming really came into its own, and with major streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music growing like wildfire, the music industry enjoyed an overall resurgence. On-demand streams increased by an impressive 39.2 percent from 2015, from 310.1 billion streams to 431.7 billion streams. Meanwhile, CD album sales dropped by 16.5 percent, from 125.3 million in 2015 to 104.8 million, while digital album sales fell by 20.1 percent, from 102.9 million to 82.2 million, and digital song sales dropped a huge 25 percent from 964.3 million units to 723.7 million.

The music industry standard for measuring streaming sales of an individual album involves equating a specific number of streams to a single album sale. A total of 1,500 streams of the various tracks from an album is equals to a single unit sold, while the sale of ten digital tracks is also considered the equivalent of one album unit sale.

Top Album Sales Of 2016

Using that measurement system, Drake came out on top with massive sales for his album Views, which sold a total of 4.1 million in 2016, combining physical album sales, digital downloads, and streams, the latter two being labeled together as "consumption units." That's no surprise to those who read our recent report that three songs from Drake's Views album featured in the top 10 most streamed songs of the year, namely "Controlla," "Too Good," and the number 1 "One Dance."

Drake also featured on Rihanna's "Work," the second most streamed song of the year. With the fourth most streamed song as well in "Needed Me," Rihanna's ANTI album landed in the number 4 position, just behind Adele's 25 and Beyoncé's Lemonade. While the Adele and Beyoncé albums had two to three times the number of actual album sales compared with consumption units, the situation is reversed with Rihanna, who sold 1.4 million consumption units versus just 603,000 album sales. Drake followed a similar pattern, with 2.5 million consumption units as opposed to 1.6 million actual album sales. That means the popularity of Rihanna and Drakes hit singles drove their success, while Adele and Beyoncé relied more on the popularity of their actual albums in their entirety.

The rest of the top 10 albums confirm that the popularity of streaming clearly varies among genres, with younger, pop/R&B artists such as Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande showing bigger consumption unit sales as opposed to album sales, which conversely led the way for country artist Chris Stapleton and the Broadway soundtrack to the hit show Hamilton.

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