Hip hop and R&B surpass rock as biggest US music genre

Hip hop and R&B surpassed rock for the first time in 2017 as the biggest music genre in the United States, but British artist Ed Sheeran’s romantic pop album Divide was the year’s biggest single draw, according to a Nielsen Music report.

Powered by a 72% increase in on-demand audio streaming, eight of the top 10 albums came from the world of rap or R&B, including Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN, Drake’s More Life and 24K Magic by Bruno Mars, according to Nielsen Music’s 2017 year-end report, released on Wednesday.

Rapper Kendrick Lamar performs onstage during the American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 20, 2016 in Los Angeles

Rap and R&B also dominate the Grammy awards later in January, with rapper Jay-Z and Lamar leading nominations.

In a reflection of the demise of rock among young people, the Coachella music festival line-up announced earlier this week featured no rock headliner for the first time in the 19-year history of the three-day Southern California event.

Pop star Taylor Swift had the biggest album of 2017 in terms of sales with Reputation, with 1.9 million units sold, Nielsen said. The album, Swift’s first in three years, was kept off streaming for the first three weeks after its release in November.

But it was Sheeran whose music dominated radio, digital and streaming in 2017. Divide notched up 2.7 million units, including sales and streaming activity, and the 26 year-old singer-songwriter’s single Shape of You spent 33 weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and was streamed one billion times.

Billboard charts tally units from album sales, song sales (10 songs equal one album) and streaming activity (1,500 streams equal one album).


Vinyl sales surged for a 12th year in a row – up 9% in 2017 – especially among older fans. The top selling vinyl albums were The Beatles Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, powered by a 50th anniversary reissue, and the British band’s 1969 release, Abbey Road.

Album and song sales were down overall in 2017, dropping 19% against the year before. But streaming surged in their wake, growing 43% with 400 billion streams total (compared with 252 billion in 2016).

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