Country Music Claims 10 Percent of Total U.S. Album Sales in 2016

Chris Stapleton, Garth Brooks, Joey + Rory, Blake Shelton Are Country's Top Artists, Nielsen Reports

In terms of album sales and popularity, country music continues to hold its own, accounting for 10 percent of total album sales this past year, according to Nielsen’s “2016 U.S. Year-End Report.”

Country’s top artists for the year in recorded music were Chris Stapleton, Garth Brooks, Joey + Rory and Blake Shelton.

Overall albums sales in the U.S., including all musical formats and all configurations (physical albums, track equivalent albums and streaming equivalent albums) rose 3.1 percent over the 2015 totals — from 543,800,000 to 560,700,000 units.

CD album sales dropped 16.3 percent. Digital albums were down 20.1 percent. But vinyl album sales increased by 10 percent

Besides country’s 10 percent of the recorded music sales pie, rock was the most popular format, leading with 29 percent. Sharing the remainder were R&B/hip hop (22 percent) and pop (13 percent), with all other genres claiming single-digit percentages or less.

There were no country acts in Billboard‘s Top 10 overall artists, which were calculated by total album sales. Drake led the pack with an equivalent of 6,389,000 albums sold in all configurations.

The Top 10 bestselling individual albums were Drake’s Views (4,140,000); Adele’s 25 (2,369,000); Beyoncé’s Lemonade (2,187,000); Rihanna’s Anti (1,966,000); Twenty-One Pilots’ Blurryface (1,732.000), Justin Bieber’s Purpose (1,678,000); Chris Stapleton’s Traveller (1,421,000); original Broadway cast’s Hamilton (1,327,000); various artists’ Suicide Squad: The Album (1,126,000) and Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman (1,070,000).

In the CD-only configuration, last year’s Top 10 titles and their number sold were Adele’s 25 (1,159,000); Pentatonix’s A Pentatonix Christmas (640,000); Chris Stapleton’s Traveller (601,000); Garth Brooks’ Ultimate Collection Exclusive (421,000); original Broadway cast’s Hamilton (385,000); Joey + Rory’s Hymns (375,000); Metallica’s Hardwired to Self-Destruct (361,000); Beyoncé’s Lemonade (354,000); Blake Shelton’s If I’m Honest (325,000) and Drake’s Views (301,000).

None of the Top 10 most popular songs were by country artists. Drake’s “One Dance” led the list. Nor were there any country songs in the Top 10 radio picks.

Country was the fourth most popular radio format, following news/talk/information, pop contemporary hits and adult contemporary.

Once again, the biggest share of money consumers spent on music — 36 percent — went to live concerts.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.