Buzz Angle's 2016 Canada Music Industry Report

If you haven’t yet had your fill of music-related year-end reports, we’ve got one more for your consideration. The 2016 Buzz Angle Canada Music Industry Report comes to us courtesy of the good folks at Border City Media, a New York-based firm who are relative newcomers to the music data business, having launched their daily web-based charts and analytics platform in July of 2015.

This year marks the first time they’ve published a Canadian report, and, like Nielsen’s version (which we discussed recently here and here), it contains the usual year-over-year comparisons. But at more than double the length of their competitor’s publication, Buzz Angle offer a much richer and deeper set of numbers and stats to pore over, and their fine-grained and near real-time approach to data analysis points to where the music measurement industry is surely heading.

Close followers of the biz will not be surprised by the report’s key takeaway: that paid streaming subscriptions numbers were way, way up in 2016 (72% of the total, vs. 56% in 2015) and that music download sales are in sharp decline. On average, more songs were streamed per day in 2016 (97M) than were purchased over the entire year (75M.) It seems that finally streaming is leading the industry in terms of revenue growth, and, as many people will not doubt agree, not a moment too soon.

Over the course of the year, Canadians streamed more than 22B songs; 35B when you add in video. Vinyl continues to gain ground, with annual sales up 57.8%, but it remains something of a sideshow when compared with the juggernaut that is streaming. Interestingly, Buzz Angle reports that Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool was the country’s top vinyl seller (4774 units), an album that did not even make the Top 10 in Nielsen’s vinyl list, suggesting that reporting and weighting approaches for physical media remains an imprecise science.

Buzz Angle also acknowledge the domination of both pop and rock as the country’s top consumption genres, two categories that are mysteriously missing from Nielsen’s equivalent graph. Hip-Hop maestro Drake took top homegrown honours across the board, and The Weeknd clearly made a strong showing in 2016, but pop artists like Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes are both comfortably lodged in the top ten, indicating that pop as a genre is certainly alive and well.

Buzz Angle’s ability to pinpoint behavioural patterns, like which days of the week (or year) see the greatest music-related activity, or which part of an artist’s catalogue the most streams originate from, add a welcome layer of analytical insight into how music consumption is changing. For instance, it appears that in 2016 the lure of deep catalogue material (i.e. music that is more than three-years-old) edged up against newer releases, suggesting that consumers are getting more familiar with streaming platforms, while in turn those platforms are improving their ability to surface older material through both algorithmic and human-curated discovery.

Whether advances such as these will amount to a larger payout for a greater number of musicians is the question on everybody’s lips. John Seabrook’s excellent take on how modern pop gets made, 2015’s The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory, reminded us how utterly the promise of the Long Tail theory has failed to deliver for non-superstar artists. Citing numbers from 2008, when the number of songs available for download on iTunes was 13M, Seabrook reported that 52K of them made up 80% of the industry’s revenue, while 10M of those tracks failed to sell even a single copy.

Employing Lorenz curve graphs, Buzz Angle’s report shows that today things haven’t changed much on the sales front: just 50K song titles sold in 2016 generated 84% of the total song sales revenue according to the graph below.


In the streaming universe, things are marginally better, with the top 50K songs accounting for 76% of revenue, and 95% of revenues are accruing to the top 500K songs. Extrapolating from that, one can deduce that the roughly 16M remaining songs streamed took in just 5% of the revenue pie. The lesson here? Niche offerings remain niche and we consumers still overwhelmingly gravitate to the hits, despite the plethora of choice at our fingertips.

There is much more to be gleaned from this insight-rich report, and there’s never been a better time to get familiar with the fast-growing world of music data-science. Visit Buzz Angle’s website to grab a copy (their U.S. report is also available for free there too) or download it by clicking on the icon below.


Leave a comment