MRC Data’s 2021 U.S. Year-End Report

MRC Data’s 2021 U.S. Year-End Report, presented in collaboration with Billboard, reveals overall consumption grew 11.3% during 2021, due to continued growth in audio streaming, a milestone year for vinyl and a changing of the guard for Catalog vs. Current music consumption.

It was another game-changing year for music consumption in 2021, as behaviors accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic led to several remarkable milestones. Overall consumption grew 11.3% year-over-year (YOY) in 2021, thanks to a 12.6% lift in on-demand audio streaming. Part of that lift is due to new albums from Adele, Drake, Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift and the controversial Morgan Wallen – but those releases only tell half the story of music listening in 2021. For the first time since MRC Data began tracking streaming music in 2008, the audio streaming of Current music (music released less than 18 months ago) actually declined. This led to a significant increase in Catalog’s share of the audio on-demand streaming universe, with 70% in 2021 vs 65% in 2020, as consumers reconnected with old favorites or discovered them for the first time through platforms like TikTok. 

And vintage music formats took on new relevance in 2021 too, as vinyl album sales outpaced CDs for the first time in MRC Data’s history (since 1991). Vinyl album volume increased a whopping 50.4% YOY and finished the year with 41.7 million versus CD album volume at 40.6 million. This included the first week in MRC Data history that saw vinyl sales in excess of 2 million copies, with 2.11 million albums sold the week ending Dec. 23 as consumers stocked up for the holiday season.

Globally, red-hot genres like Afro-Pop and K-Pop continued to crossover to the U.S. and other territories in an even bigger way, led by hits from artists like Wizkid, CKay, BTS and BLACKPINK’s Lisa and Rosé. Many international territories continued ramping up their adoption of streaming services, too, led by Japan, Colombia, Poland, Turkey and the UK.

Download the full MRC Data U.S. Year-End Report below for a deep dive on all the year’s biggest trends in music consumption that will help you navigate the year ahead.

Please note, a correction has been made to the catalog album consumption number released on Thursday, January 6, 2022.  The updated 2021 Year End Catalog album consumption number is 69.8%. 

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