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In tune. Informed. Indispensable.

MRC Data's 2021 year-end report US highlights


The report covers:

  • The report reveals the year-end chart toppers and covers music consumption for the 12-month period from Jan. 1, 2021 through December 30, 2021, outlining the powerful role music continues to play in consumers' lives, as well as pivotal moments from the music industry.


The 3G's of Music: Generations, Geography & Genre

Generational Streaming Trends Around The Globe          

  • While Gen Z mostly leads all generations in weekly music listening on streaming services, millennial music listeners outpace them in a few notable territories -- including the U.K. and Latin America. Among boomers, Mexico has the highest concentration of weekly music streamers, with 75%. Japan, where physical CD sales are still popular, has the lowest with 34%.

K-Pop Consumption Charts New Milestones

  • World Music saw a 17.4% rise* in total consumption year-over-year in 2021, fueled by another record year of K-Pop milestones on the charts. This included Hot 100 hits for South Korea's BTS as well as solo hits from two members of girl group BLACKPINK and a breakthrough hit for Twice.

Afro-Pop Continues to Rise in Consumption

  • Afro-Pop has seen a continued rise in consumption that was accelerated this year by the genre's two biggest crossover hits lead by African artists in the U.S. (WizKid, "Essence" Feat. Justin Bieber & Tems; CKay, "Love Nwantiti (Ah Ah Ah)").


Play It Again: Catalog Music Takes The Lead

Music Fans Reconnect With Old Faves 

  • Audio on-demand streaming reached a new single-year high of 988.1 billion streams in 2021, which included a notable decline in yearly audio streams of Current music (which decreased 19.4%). For the first time since MRC Data began measuring streaming data, music fans spent more time with Catalog (which was up 29.4% this year). 

Taylor Swift's Re-Records 

  • Straddling both sides of the Catalog & Current divide is Taylor Swift, who released two rerecorded Taylor's Versions of her 2008 album Fearless and 2012 LP Red in April and November 2021, respectively. 
  • 143.0 million - First week on-demand streams for Fearless (Taylor's Version) the week ending April 15, marking the largest streaming week ever for a country album by a female artist at the time
    • In just eight months of release, Fearless (Taylor's Version) has already been streamed two times more than the 2008 original album, with 664.6 million streams for Taylor's Version compared to 333 million streams for the original Fearless in 2021
    • 303.0 million - First week on-demand streams for Red (Taylor's Version) the week ending Nov. 18, more than doubling the first-week streams for Fearless (Taylor's Version) and making it the second-largest streaming week ever for an album by a female artist

Wall Street's Catalog Craze

  • The Catalog craze has also extended to Wall Street, where private equity firms have poured billions of dollars into buying up songwriting catalogs and/or master recordings from hitmakers both classic and current. Notable deals from the last year alone include Bob Dylan & Universal Music Publishing Group (for a reported $300 million), Neil Young & Hipgnosis (for a reported $150 million) and Stevie Nicks & Primary Wave ($100 million), among dozens of others.
    • $2 billion - Estimated total acquisitions made by Hipgnosis Songs Fund, a publicly traded music investment and management firm, between July 2018 and June 2021, according to company filings 


Dynamic Duo: Video Games & Music

  • After artists like Travis Scott, J Balvin and Lil Nas X kicked off a virtual concert craze in 2020 with platforms Fortnite and Roblox, music and gaming integrations continued to pick up steam in 2021 and helped drive consumption of the artists' catalogs.
    • Rico Nasty: 
      • +6% weekly lift in On-Demand Audio Streams (to 3.1 million) during the week ending Feb. 25, 2021 following the rapper's headlining slot at SoundCloud's Player One gaming tournament on Feb. 18
    • Kaskade: 
      • +6% weekly lift in total On-Demand Streams (to 1.90 million) during the week ending April 1, 2021, following the March 26 and 27 premiere of the DJ-producer's virtual concerts inside Fortnite
    • Royal Blood: 
      • +27% weekly lift in total On-Demand Streams (to 2.1 million) during the week ending April 1, 2021, following the U.K. rock band's March 27 performance at the eighth annual Roblox Bloxy Awards
    • Zara Larsson: 
      • +26% weekly lift in On-Demand Audio Streams (to 4.5 million) during the week ending May 27, following the Swedish pop singer's May 21 virtual concert on Roblox to celebrate the deluxe edition of her album Poster Girl
    • Ariana Grande: 
      • +8% weekly lift in total On-Demand Streams (to 52.6 million) during the week ending Aug. 12, following the pop superstar's Aug. 6 virtual concert in Fortnite


Adele's '30': What The Year's Top-Selling Album Says About A Post-'25' Music Industry

  • Highest album sales debut in four years. 30 debuted at No. 1 on the Dec. 4-dated Billboard 200 chart with first-week sales of 839,000 equivalent units during the week ending Nov. 25. That figure includes album sales of 692,000 copies, making it the biggest-selling album debut since Taylor Swift's Reputation in 2017. Given that 30 was released on all streaming services upon release, unlike both Reputation and 25, this sales figure is a notably high first-week frame for an album also widely available to stream. 
  • Retail — even CDs! — still matters. Retail exclusives, including a Target CD with three exclusive audio bonus tracks, helped play a big part in Adele's first-week achievement. 30 was also one of the first major albums of 2021 to secure a day-and-date release on vinyl, after Adele turned in the album's masters six months prior to release to accommodate supply-chain delays. In addition to wide availability at all vinyl retailers, a white-colored LP was made exclusive for Amazon, and Walmart sold a clear-colored LP. Of 30's first-week sales, CDs accounted for 378,000 copies — making it easily the biggest CD sales week of 2021, nearly doubling the year's previous record from Taylor Swift's Red (Taylor's Version) with 146,700 copies sold. Vinyl LPs sold 108,000 copies — making it the second-largest vinyl sales week for an album since MRC Data began tracking the format in 1991.
  • "Easy on Me" sets radio, but not streaming, records. 30's lead single "Easy on Me" entered the Oct. 30-dated Radio Songs chart at No. 4, marking the highest debut since the tally became an all-format ranking in December 1998. The song scored a first-week airplay audience of 65 million. "Easy on Me" didn't set any records for streaming debuts, but did become the fifth song released in 2021 to accumulate more than 50 million U.S. streams in a single week (it totaled 54.0 million on-demand streams).



  • RAP -- Drake's Certified Lover Boy is a certified smash, as the set is 2021's most popular rap album in the U.S., with 1.97 million equivalent album units earned during the year. Meanwhile, Masked Wolf's "Astronaut in the Ocean" is the most-consumed rap song of 2021. 
  • COUNTRY -- Morgan Wallen's Dangerous: The Double Album closes 2021 as both the top country album of the year and also the most popular album across all genres, with 3.23 million equivalent album units earned during the year. 
  • LATIN – Bad Bunny's El Ultimo Tour del Mundo reigns as 2021's top Latin album, as the November 2020 release continued to perform strongly in 2021. The set, which marked the first all-Spanish-language album to top the weekly Billboard 200 chart, earned 854,000 equivalent album units in 2021. 
  • R&B -- Silk Sonic, the duo of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak 2021 release "Leave the Door Open" was one of the most popular R&B tunes on the radio (No. 3) and most-consumed R&B tracks overall (No. 2 on the top songs list). Doja Cat's 2021 album Planet Her closes the year as the most popular R&B album. The set debuted atop Billboard's weekly Top R&B Albums chart — the first leader on the list for the artist.
  • DANCE/ELECTRONIC -- Travis Scott and HVME's  unlikely pairing on "Goosebumps" made for the second-most-consumed Dance/Electronic song of 2021. It began its life in 2016 as a Scott track featuring Kendrick Lamar, and it was later reworked into a deep house cut by HVME in 2020. Scott lent his vocals to the song in January 2021 helping the song top Billboard's weekly Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart in February 2021.
  • ROCK -- Glass Animals' breakthrough hit "Heat Waves" was red hot in 2021, finishing as the year's most-consumed rock track. The single reached the top 10 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart in November, marking both the first top 10 and first Hot 100 ever for the group. 

 The report is available for download HERE

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