It’s Official: Hip-Hop is Now Bigger Than Rock–In America, Anyway

A new mid-year report by Nielsen Music says that there’s been a cultural change as far as music is concerned in the US. For the first time ever, hip-hop and rap have a larger market share than rock.

Taking into account all sorts of music consumption–CD purchases, streaming and so on–more people consume rap and hip-hop (25.1%) than rock (23%). Pigeons and Planes reports:

We’re talking total song consumption here (or “digital song sales with streaming equivalent on-demand audio”) because rock albums purchases still make up over 40% of album sales in the US.

Physicals aside, these numbers should not come as a surprise to anyone when we look at Nielsen’s top tracks of the mid-year: “The top streaming on-demand song (audio and video combined) is Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You,’ followed by Migos’ (feat. Lil Uzi Vert) ‘Bad and Boujee’ and Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee’s (feat. Justin Bieber) ‘Despacito.’”

Nielsen notes that “on-demand audio streams have reached over 184 billion streams so far in 2017, a considerable 62.4% increase over the same time period in 2016.” Pair that with the aforementioned top streaming songs all having a direct connection to hip-hop and R&B, and everything seamlessly comes together for the tides to change in hip-hop’s direction.

If you want the whole report, you can download it here.

In Canada, rap and hip-hop also dominated the first half of the year, thanks to Drake, The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar, although Nielsen Canada’s mid-year report doesn’t seem to break down consumption the same way as they did in the US. These are the latest figures I have.

That rap and hip-hop are now bigger than rock should come as no surprise. The first half of the 20th century was all about jazz. Then rock came along and supplanted it as the primary cultural drive when it came to music. Rock has now yielded that crown to rap and hip-hop.

This doesn’t mean that rock is dead. Far from it. But in terms of influence on culture, it’s now in second place.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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