In a year filled with albums that were recorded entirely in artist’s homes, dropped at a moment’s notice, and live shows performed exclusively through television and phone screens, the music industry redefined its capabilities in 2020. If there is one thing to take away from this year in music, however, it is the continual domination of streaming services and how these streams contribute to music sales. At year’s end, MRC Data calculated that the number 1 album of the year, in terms of physical units sold and units streamed, was Lil Baby’s My Turn.
Lil Baby’s sophomore major label release collected 2.63 equivalent album units during 2020. Collecting 3.93 billion streams in total in 2020, My Turn’s streaming numbers equates to about 2.59 million units of its 2.63 million total. This leaves only around 40,000 units being counted as traditional album sales. As a comparison, the second highest-selling album of the year, Taylor Swift’s Folklore, earned 1.09 million traditional album sales of its 2.2 million total. As audio equivalent album sales rose by over 11% from 2019 to 2020, a rap album claimed MRC’s number 1 spot for the 3rd year in a row (Post Malone’s Hollywood’s Bleedingin 2019 and Drake’s Scorpionin 2018).
An adjacent note to the rise in streaming services in 2020, oddly enough, is the rise in Vinyl LP sales that was experienced last year. Accounting for just over a quarter (26.9%) of all album sales in 2020, Vinyl LPs were also credited with over 40% of all physical albums sold.
As rap music continues to break boundaries on streaming services, the way in which album sales are calculated is seemingly changing with the times. As more and more music consumers resort to the use of streaming services, one would assume the demand for physical copies of music would slowly become obsolete. However, as shown with the rise in vinyl sales and traditional album sales experiencing their smallest decline since 2015, the CDs and Vinyl albums are not yet ready to be cut from circulation.
Source: MRC Data, for the tracking period Jan. 3, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020.