How to have a streaming hit in the USA: hire 9.1 songwriters (and a rap artist)

Who released the biggest songs and albums in the United States last year? Now we know.

Market monitor BuzzAngle has unveiled a handful of officiated Top 25 charts for 2018, covering US-based streams and sales across both albums and single tracks.

The headline news? It’s hip-hop (again).

Drake was dominant in 2018, as you might expect, following the June release of his record-breaking album, Scorpion.

In total, Scorpion racked up 6.27bn US-based, on-demand streams last calendar year, with three of its tracks (God’s Plan at No.1, In My Feelings at No.2 and Nice For What at No.5) landing in the Top 5 most-streamed songs of the 12 months.

This led a hip-hop takeover of streaming’s most popular tracks.

Within BuzzAngle’s Top 25 streamed songs from 2018 (across both audio and video services), lead artists broadly classed as rappers (including Post Malone and Juice WRLD) claimed nine of the Top 10 tracks. What’s more, hip-hop artists claimed 20 (!) of the Top 25 streaming tracks in the year – equivalent to 80%.

The non-rap exceptions: Girls Like You by Maroon 5 (No.6), Havana by Camila Cabello (No.11), Boo’d Up by Ella Mai (No.12), Believer by Imagine Dragons (No.20) and Perfect by Ed Sheeran (No.23).

Having said that, Girls Like You features a rapper (Cardi B) as does Havana (Young Thug), arguably giving the hip-hop genre some claim to 22 of the Top 25 (88%).

(A popular remix of Boo’d Up features Nicki Minaj and Quavo – but the original track is performed by Ella Mai and only Ella Mai.)

Another interesting stat: according to MBW research, the average number of credited songwriters in the US market’s Top 10 streaming hits of 2018, per-track, was a surprisingly high 9.1. (Pulling this number up: Drake’s In My Feelings, with 16 credited songwriters, and Nice For What, with 21; also, Cardi B/Bad Bunny/J Balvin’s I Like It, with 15. With these three tracks removed, the Top 10 average falls to 5.57.)

These figures are based on information stored in the ASCAP and/or BMI databases (we chose whichever offered the fullest information in each case), and includes all songwriting credits, including samples.

(The exception here is Travis Scott‘s Sicko Mode, which is credited in some places, including Spotify, as having a whopping 30 songwriters, but is less-heftily credited by the US PROs. For our average number, we’ve gone for the eight names credited in Scott’s own Astroworld album notes.)

Across the Top 15 streaming tracks of 2018, that average songwriter-per-hit number stood at 8.13, while over the Top 20 it was 7.3.

Count the entire Top 25, and the average composer number was 6.48.

Hits with notably few credited writers include the pair of XXXTentacion songs in the Top 25 (SAD! and Moonlight), which were officially written by two people (John Cunningham and XXXTentacion, aka Jahseh Onfroy.)

The only track in the Top 25 with a single credited writer is Ed Sheeran’s Perfect at No.23 – although re-released versions of the song featuring Beyoncé and Andrea Bocelli also credited these artists.

Adding to its streaming success, Sheeran’s Perfect was the US market’s most-downloaded track of 2018, says BuzzAngle, shifting over 1m units online.

Back to the US streaming charts for 2018 – this time, the most-streamed albums. Once again, hip-hop was the defining genre here, matching the streaming track chart with nine of the Top 10.

Drake’s Scorpion was out in front (6.27bn streams), followed by Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys, Migos’ Culture II, XXXTentacion’s ? and Travis Scott’s Astroworld.

Four of those albums were distributed by Universal Music Group, while one was released by Sony (the Epic-issued Astroworld). Eight of the Top 10 were UMG releases, with Warner‘s single slot coming courtesy of Cardi B’s Invasion Of Privacy (Atlantic) at No.8.

In terms of traditional sales mechanics, the USA’s biggest album of 2018 was the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman, which finished the year having shifted 1.27m copies.

(The Hugh Jackman-led LP was also the biggest-selling album in the UK last year.)

Another soundtrack, for the Lady Gaga-starring movie A Star Is Born, was at No.2 in the US according to BuzzAngle, shifting 525,736 copies across physical and download formats after being released in October.

The highest artist album on the list was Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods. At No.3 with 376,936 sales, it was originally released in February last year.

As previously reported, BuzzAngle says that the USA’s biggest-selling artist on physical formats last year, in unit terms, was The Beatles.

BuzzAngle also ranks each album release in a chart by ‘Total Consumption’ – taking into account audio streaming, plus downloads and physical sales.

This chart, which is broadly revenue-reflective, is based on BuzzAngle’s formula of 10 downloads or 1,500 on-demand streams to each ‘album’ sale.

The Greatest Showman, with its strong physical sales, interrupts the potential for a full hip-hop Top 5, but Drake’s Scorpion and Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys reign supreme once again.

Click here to download the full updated BuzzAngle 2018 report, which now includes the above charts and more besides.Music Business Worldwide

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