Why Are Hip Hop and R&B Fans So Crazy About Streaming?

If you take a very close look at what kind of genres of music are being streamed on Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, Deezer and the rest of them, you’ll find that hip hop is over-indexing. In fact, hip hop and R&B are kicking ass. From the New York Times:

Songs from [the new Drake/Future mixtape] “What a Time to Be Alive,” which came out Sept. 20, were streamed 40.3 million times around the world in its first week, including 35.1 million times in the United States, according to Apple. Earlier this year, Drake’s “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” was streamed 48 million times in one week, according to Nielsen. Mr. Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” opened with 38 million and the Weeknd’s “Beauty Behind the Madness” started with 57 million one week and 52 million the next.

By comparison, the best week for a rock act this year was Mumford & Sons’ “Wilder Mind,” with 15.4 million in May. Back in 2012, Mumford & Sons set an early record on Spotify when its album “Babel” opened with eight million streams in the United States.

Steve Berman, the vice chairman of Interscope Records, which released Mr. Lamar’s album and Dr. Dre’s “Compton: A Soundtrack,” said the trend reminds him of the arrival of the tracking service SoundScan in the early 1990s, when more accurate data from retailers showed that rap albums by acts like N.W.A. were far more popular than had been thought.

“What we’re seeing is the truth about consumption,” Mr. Berman said.

Unlike downloads or CD sales, which are both slowing, streaming services show how many times fans actually listen to the songs they select. For the first eight months of the year, hip-hop and R&B songs — which are often connected on so-called urban radio formats, and tracked together by data services — represented 17 percent of album sales, but 26 percent of all streams, according to Nielsen.

Interesting, no? Read on for an explanation on how social media may explain some of this.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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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