Where is Canada’s music business at the halfway point of 2018? Let’s take a look.

Nielsen Music Canada has issued its mid-year report on the state of Canadian music. Here’s what they found out.

1. Streaming is up. A lot.

Because Canada was late to the streaming party, we’re a little behind some other parts of the world like the US, the UK, and Scandinavia. But we are catching up in terms of adoption. Streaming volumes are on the rise, up 53% over last year. Back on March 1, Canadians listened to one billion streams in a week for the first time. Outside of a full Internet outage caused by a North Korean EMP, it’s unlikely we’ll ever dip below that mark again.

2. Album sales are down. A lot.

CD sales are down 17% from the midpoint of 2017 while digital tracks have sunk 22%. Why? See point (1).

3. Canadians are hot. Very hot.

Between Drake, The Weeknd, and Shawn Mendes, all had albums debuting at the top of the charts. Drake’s “God’s Plan” has had nearly 100 million streams on its own.

4. Post Malone is having a good year

His beerbongs & bentleys set a one-week recorded for on-demand audio streams with 43.4 million. His material has been streamed 344,764,000 times, about 14 million ahead of Drake. That gap won’t last, though.

5. It was a good year for Record Store Day in Canada and vinyl in general

Sales of vinyl were up 96% over the previous year. Overall vinyl sales are 67% better than they were at this point in 2018.

6. R&B/Hip-Hop continue to grow in popularity…

When it comes to overall music consumption, the combination of these genres take up 21% of the market.

7. …but Alt-Rock and Hard Rock are holding their own

Unlike the R&B/Hip-Hop category, these, two genres are tracked separately. Alt-Rock accounted for 17.5% of all physical sales, more than any other genre. Hard Rock was in second spot with 13.5%, for a total of 31%. By this measure, Canada is still very much a rock nation. However, when streaming is factored in, the combined Alt-Rock/Hard Rock number gives these genres an 18,2% market share, a couple of tick behind R&B/Hip-Hop. That gap will only increase in the short term.

8. And speaking of Alt-Rock…

…this genre was responsible for 16.1% of all physical album sales (good for first place among all the other genres), 19.8% of digital album sales (also in first place), 11.2% of digital song sales (second to R&B/Hip-Hop). The genre is also second to R&B/Hip-Hop when it comes to on-demand audio streams: 10.2% vs. 25.9%. That gap needs to be analyzed. Why the disparity?

9. The five biggest rock artists in Canada in terms of total consumption by music fans are…

  1. Imagine Dragons
  2. The Beatles
  3. Metallica
  4. Tragically Hip
  5. Er, Elvis.

10. The five biggest rock albums this year so far are…

  1. Imagine Dragons, Evolve
  2. Eric Lapointe, Deliverance
  3. Tragically Hip, Yer Favourites
  4. Vance Joy, Nation of Two
  5. Queen, Platinum Collection

11. The five biggest rock songs of the year so far are…

  1. Imagine Dragons, “Thunder”
  2. Imagine Dragons, “Believer”
  3. Portugal. The Man, “Feel It Still”
  4. Halsey, “Bad at Love”
  5. Bad Wolves, “Zombie”

12. The five songs most heard on rock radio were:

  1. Portugal. The Man, “Feel It Still” (46,000 spins so far)
  2. Imagine Dragons, “Thunder” (45,000)
  3. Imagine Dragons, “Whatever It Takes (35,000)
  4. Halsey, “Bad at Love” (32,0000)
  5. Alice Merton, “No Roots (20,000)

13. Top 5 physical CD albums

  1. Keith Urban, Graffiti U (55,000 units sold)
  2. P!nk, Beautiful Trauma, (42,000)
  3. Ed Sheeran, Divide (32,000)
  4. Eric Lapointe, Deliverance, 31,000
  5. Elvis Presley, 40 Years On (23,000)

14. Best-selling vinyl albums

  1. Various Artists, Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix (7,000 copies sold)
  2. Jack White, Boarding House Reach (4,000)
  3. Kendrick Lamar, Damn (2,000)
  4. Bob Marley and The Wailers, Legend (2,000)
  5. Arctic Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2,000)





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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