You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Drake's 'Views' is 2016's most popular album

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 6/01/2017 Patrick Ryan

The streaming era is upon us and Drake is leading the charge. 

The Toronto rapper's Grammy-nominated Views was the most popular album of 2016, according to Nielsen Music's year-end report, which tracked the 12-month period ending Dec. 29, 2016. After its exclusive release on Apple Music in late April, his fourth studio effort spent 13 nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart and sold 4.1 million equivalent album units to date.

The total reflects a tracking metric adopted by Billboard in 2014, which counts 1,500 song streams as one album sale and 10 digital track sales as a single album sold. Views amassed 1.6 million traditional album sales, 5.1 million song downloads and — most tellingly — 3 billion streams. 

Drake scored 2016's most-consumed album overall with his streaming juggernaut 'Views.' © Arthur Mola, AP Drake scored 2016's most-consumed album overall with his streaming juggernaut 'Views.' "The metric for success has changed," says David Bakula, Nielsen Entertainment's senior vice president of analytics. With streams now comprising 38% of total audio consumption, "album sales can't be the only metric anymore and Drake really embodies that shift of consumption." 

Audio streaming grew 76% over 2015, surpassing total digital sales for the first time in history with 250 billion streams for the year. Overall album sales fell 16.7%, with physical albums sold (118.3 million) outpacing digital (82.2 million). Individual song downloads also dropped 25% to 723.7 million, selling nearly 200 million less than 2015 (964.4 million). 

"The speed at which the industry is changing continues to be a little surprising, just how quickly things are moving over to streaming," Bakula says. "The digital consumer seems to have really embraced access over ownership, in terms of the drops we're seeing in digital sales."

But sales haven't completely gone the way of the dinosaur. Just look at Adele's 25, which was the second-most-popular album of 2016 with 2.4 million equivalent album units sold. Eliminate its streams and track sales, and 25 actually sold more albums than Views (1.7 million copies). With 9.2 million copies sold since its late 2015 release, 25 is now only the second album in Nielsen Music history to top the sales chart for two consecutive years. The other? Adele's 21, in both 2011 and 2012. 

Rounding out the top five most-listened-to albums of 2016 are Beyoncé's Lemonade (2.2 million equivalent album units), Rihanna's Anti (2 million) and Twenty One Pilots' Blurryface (1.7 million). Desiigner's Panda was the most-streamed song on audio and video platforms combined (791.3 million streams), while Justin Timberlake's Can't Stop the Feeling! was the most-downloaded song (2.5 million sold). 

Although Views and 25 topped the streaming and sales charts, Prince wound up being the top-selling album artist overall. The late singer's albums sold more than 2.2 million copies in 2016 — 200,000 of which were purchased the day after his death last April. His most popular was greatest-hits collection The Very Best of Prince, which moved nearly 670,000 copies and landed at No. 8 on the overall album sales chart. 

David Bowie, who died last January, scored the second-best-selling vinyl LP of 2016 with Blackstar (66,000 copies), coming in just behind Blurryface (68,000). Overall, vinyl sales were up for an 11th consecutive year with 13 million sold, although with the continued streaming surge, Bakula says growth could slow in 2017.

"It's possible that we may be looking at a year that's close to flat in vinyl," Bakula says. "It's a small piece of the business — only 11% of physical (sales) — but at the same time, it's a very important consumer. That's going to be an interesting thing to look at this year." 

More From USA TODAY

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon