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So How Did Rock Do in Canada in 2017? Glad You Asked (Hint: MUCH Better Than You Might Think)

Nielsen Music Canada has just released its summary of 2017. Amongst all the stats about sales, streaming and radio airplay is some genre-by-genre analysis.

I’ve sorted through all the numbers and pulled out some of the more interesting ones. (Well, interesting to me, anyway.)

  • 41.3% of the year’s vinyl was sold in the 4th quarter
  • The favourite day for Canadians to stream music is Friday. The most popular day for streaming video is Saturday.
  • Rap saw a 98% increase in on-demand streaming in 2017.
  • By now (i.e. mid-January), Canadians are streaming a billion songs a week.
  • The most-played song on Canadian radio was “Shape of You” from Ed Sheeran, which was played 123,000 times. It was followed by The Weeknd and “I Feel It Coming” (94,000) and “Something Just Like This,” the collaboration between The Chainsmokers and Coldplay (91,000 plays). If you’re wondering about “Despacito,” it finished well down the list with a total of 79,000 plays.
  • The artist with the most cumulative number of song plays on Canadian radio? The Weeknd with 269,000 spins. Yes, you heard him a lot in 2017.

Now let’s concentrate on rock and all its flavours.

If you crunch all the consumption numbers (it’s complicated, but it involves sales, streams and more), the number one most-consumed rock artist in Canada in 2017 was Metallica. The top five looks like this:

  1. Metallica
  2. Imagine Dragons
  3. Tragically Hip
  4. The Beatles
  5. Coldplay

The top five rock albums (again based on a complicated formula of sales and streams) in Canada last year were:

  1. Imagine Dragons, Evolve
  2. Metallica, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct
  3. Tragically Hip, Yer Favourites
  4. Arcade Fire, Everything Now
  5. Guns ‘N Roses, Greatest Hits

Now, the top five rock songs:

  1. Imagine Dragons, “Believer”
  2. Imagine Dragons, “Thunder”
  3. Portugal. The Man, “Feel It Still”
  4. Twenty One Pilots, “Heathens”
  5. Rag ‘N Bone Man, “Human”

And finally, the top rock songs on the radio:

  1. Imagine Dragons, “Believer” (played 73,000 times)
  2. Portugal. The Man, “Feel It Still (60,000)
  3. Coleman Hell, “Fireproof” (33,000)
  4. Strumbellas, “Spirits” (31,000)
  5. Imagine Dragons, “Thunder” (30,000)

When it came to live music:

  • 38% of Canadians attended some kind of concert
  • 24% went to a festival
  • 14% took in a club event with a live DJ
  • 59% of all music spending goes to live events

Here are still more numbers:

  • When you consider all the various metrics, no artist was bigger in Canada than Ed Sheerhan. He also sold the most physical albums with 229,000 copies, 200,000 of which were Divide.
  • Taylor Swift’s Reputation sold 128,000 units, which was good for second place. Third went to Metallica with 112,000.
  • The Beatles sold 141,000 physical albums and 138,000 individual tracks. Add in streaming and they were the tenth most-successful act in the country last year.
  • The top Canadian artist? Drake. No contest. The man is a monster when it comes to streaming (over 600 million!)
  • The Tragically Hip sold 138,000 physical albums last year, good for sixth spot on the list.
  • The top digital album? Ed Sheeran and Divide with 106,000.
  • Shania Twain’s Now sold more copies on CD than any other album with 100,000 copies.
  • Ed Sheeran’s Divide sold the most on vinyl with 4,900 units. The second-most-popular vinyl record? Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (4,000) and The Beatles Sgt. Pepper (3,900). If you want to go deeper into this list, go here.

What does all this mean? Well, if you look at this chart, Canada is still very much a rock nation–specifically an alt-rock country. Of all the individual music genres, it’s the biggest.

I just buried the lede. Rock is NOT dead. At least not in Canada.





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.

Alan Cross has 38457 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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