MRC Data’s 2021 Canada Midyear Report: Canadians' Music Consumption Up 10.6% So Far This Year, Surpassing pre-COVID Levels

RC Data (formerly Nielsen SoundScan and Nielsen Music) has released the top highlights in the music industry for the first half of 2021 in its latest Mid-Year Report. From top streaming Canadian artists to most consumed songs around the world, the report provides a snapshot of what the first six months of 2021 looked like for the music and entertainment industries, including relevant topics as vinyl’s continued boom and the NFT phenomenon.

After a long 16-month shutdown, music from Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, and a posthumous album from the Tragically Hip helped boost music consumption in Canada in the first half of 2021, according to MRC Data's 2021 Canada mid-year report. The tally showed that total equivalent album units was up 10.6% year-over-year during the first six months of 2021, led by an 11.4% boost in on-demand streaming during that time.

To download the report, go HERE.

While on-demand music streaming is up 11.4% so far this year, physical album and digital downloads continue to fall. So far this year, album sales and downloaded track-equivalent albums (TEA) are down -15% to a total of 3.8 million (down from 4.4 million units in first half of 2020). Most significantly, digital album sales in Canada are down a massive -24.2% year-over-year.

Vinyl, though, is continuing its decade-long resurgence, with another 53% growth. So far in 2021, 476,000 vinyl records were sold, compared to 311,000 in the first half of last year.

Jstin Bieber Records

  • First-week streams for Justice (26.2 million), the sixth studio album from Stratford, Ontario, native Justin Bieber, which entered the Billboard Canadian Albums Chart at No. 1 on the chart dated April 3.
  • 5.2 million first-week streams for “Peaches,” Justice’s lead single (featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon), which debuted at No. 1 on the Canadian Hot 100 chart dated April 3. The single also marks the first No. 1 for Toronto native Daniel Caesar, who previously peaked at No. 86 on the Canadian Hot 100 in 2018 with “Who Hurt You?”
  • 664,000 First week on-demand streams earned for gospel EP Freedom., released just two weeks after Justice. The project debuted at No. 2 on the Christian Albums Chart dated April 13, Bieber’s first entry on that tally.

Canadian Females Make Waves

  • Following the top five CHR success of Calgary’s TATE MCRAE with her single “You Broke Me First” in December 2020, two more first-time charting Canadian female artists scored strong radio success in the first half of 2021. Vancouver’s Jessia reached No. 5 Hot AC (799 spins, May 22) and No. 7 CHR (1031 spins, May 8) with “I’m Not Pretty,” and Toronto’s AJA peaked at No. 8 Hot AC (705 spins, June 12) with “Red Button.”
  • Toronto’s Delaney Jane scored her biggest radio hit to date, reaching No. 13 CHR (823 spins, May 15) with “Just as Much.”

Homegrown Country Stars Top the Charts

  • Canadian country stars continue to score top-charting hits at the radio format. BRETT KISSEL scored two chart-toppers, “A Few Good Stories” (1820 spins, Jan. 23) and “Make a Life, Not a Living” (1771 Kissel spins, July 5). Dallas  Smith’s “Some Things Never Change”  (1728 spins, Feb. 6), Dean Brody’s “Boys” (1825 spins, April 3), High Valley’s “River’s Still Running” (1689 spins, April 17) and Jade Eagleson’s “All Night To Figure It Out” (1780 spins, June 28) all reached No. 1 in the first half of the year.


NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have also become a new revenue stream for artists to distribute music and artwork: from February 25 to April 25, 2021 alone, musicians made an estimated $55.7 million from NFT sales, based on a report from Water & Music.


  • CANADIAN ARTISTS -- Two of Canada’s biggest artists, Justin Bieber and The Weeknd, dominate the top of the midyear album and song charts. Bieber’s Justice is the most-consumed album for the first six months of 2021 by a Canadian artist, while the singles “Peaches” and “Anyone” sit at No. 2 and No. 4 respectively on the most-consumed song list from a Canadian artist. The Weeknd’s After Hours and The Highlights are at No. 2 and No. 3 on the top Canadian albums list, and the singles “Save Your Tears” and “Blinding Lights” are No. 1 and No. 3 respectively on the Canadian songs list. Thanks to strong sales and streams, Charlotte Cardin’s Phoenix is the No. 4 most-consumed album by a Canadian artist and Tate McRae’s breakthrough single, “You Broke Me First,” lands as the No. 5 most-consumed song by a Canadian artist.
  • RAP -- Pop Smoke’s 2020 album Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon continues to do brisk business in 2021, as the set stands as the most popular rap album at the mid-year point (101,000 equivalent album units earned). After debuting at No. 1 on the weekly Billboard Canadian Albums chart dated July 18, 2020, the set has left the Top 10 for one week.  Masked Wolf’s “Astronaut in the Ocean,” 24kGoldn’s “Mood,” featuring Iann Dior, and Polo G’s “Rapstar” were among the most-consumed rap tracks of 2021 at mid-year. “Mood” also stands as the most-played rap track at radio.
  • COUNTRY -- Morgan Wallen’s blockbuster Dangerous: The Double Album — which spent eight weeks atop the all-genre Billboard Canadian Albums chart — is the country genre’s most popular album at mid-year, with 157,000 equivalent album units earned. Taylor Swift’s Fearless (Taylor’s Version) – a rerecording of her 2008 album Fearless – is 2021’s No. 3 biggest country set, with 47,000 units earned. Though a rerecording, the effort marked Swift’s first country album since 2012’s Red.  Luke Combs, who also has the No. 2 country album at mid-year, has the No. 1 most-consumed country song so far in 2021, with “Forever After All.” The song reached No. 3 on the all-genre Billboard Canadian Hot 100 last November and spent five weeks at No. 1 on the Canada Country tally.
  • R&B -- The Weeknd’s 2020 release After Hours rules as the top R&B album at mid-year 2021, with 98,000 equivalent album units earned so far this year. The set’s recent hit “Save Your Tears,” boosted by a remix with Ariana Grande, reached No. 1 on the weekly Billboard Canadian Hot 100 chart. It also stands as the No. 2 most-played song on radio, among all genres, at the mid-year point.  A song that has been inescapable since its ascent up the charts in 2020, The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” is the top R&B song of 2021 thus far, by total consumption.
  • DANCE/ELECTRONIC -- The most-consumed dance/electronic track of 2021 is Travis Scott and HVME’s “Goosebumps,” a tune that started its life back in 2016 as a Scott track featuring Kendrick Lamar. It was later reworked into a deep house cut by HVME in 2020, and Scott lent his vocals to the cut in January. The track reached No. 10 on the all-genre Billboard Canadian Hot 100 chart in May.
  • ROCK -- Machine Gun Kelly’s 2020 release Tickets to My Downfall is the top rock album of 2021 thus far, with 49,000 equivalent album units earned. The set was largely produced and written with Blink-182’s Travis Barker and debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Canadian Albums chart. Familiar favorites crowd the remainder of the top five rock albums of 2021, including Elton John’s Diamonds, The Tragically Hip’s Yer Favourites and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours.  Glass Animals’ mainstream smash “Heat Waves'' is among the most-consumed rock tracks of 2021 in Canada (No. 1at the mid-year point), after having reached No. 21 on the Canadian Hot 100 chart – the band’s first entry on the all-genre tally.


Most popular songs outside the US:

  • Globally, streaming’s growth continued to heat up in territories like Japan, Poland, and Turkey, which posted the highest growth in audio streaming year-over-year during the first two quarters.
  • This was reflected in hits by Nathan Evans, NCT Dream and more on the Billboard Global charts during the measured time period.

TOP 5 Popular International Hits That Have Yet To Debut On The U.S. Hot 100

  • “Wellerman” by Nathan Evans (Scotland)
  • “Lut Gaye” by Jubin Nautiyal featuring Emraan Hashmi (India)
  • “Hot Sauce” by NCT Dream (South Korea)
  • “Ton” by Sprte X Guygeegee (Vietnam)
  • “La Curiosidad” by DJ Nelson Presenta Jay Wheeler & Myke Towers (Puerto Rico)

The Afro-Pop Takeover -- Afro-Pop is poised for a global music breakthrough that could soon mirror K-Pop in its widespread reach. Crossover songs like Master KG’s “Jerusalema” (featuring Burna Boy and Nomcebo Zikode), which has accumulated 20.6 million Canadian on-demand streams, and popular African artists like Davido and Wizkid, as well as Burna Boy, collaborating with Western pop stars are at the helm of this trend.

Spotlight on Japan -- Music’s No. 2 market is finally making a meaningful transition into the streaming era, with physical sales down 9% from 2019 to 2020 but streaming revenue up 27% during the same time period, according to the Recording Industry Association of Japan.

Spotlight on France & Spain -- A pair of MRC Data’s most recent Music 360 surveys took a deep dive into the latest consumer trends in France and Spain. Of the two countries, France is less musically inclined, with 75% of the general population engaging with music (compared to 86% in Spain).

French music fans are still slowly embracing streaming services, with 29% of music listeners discovering songs through audio streaming and only 10% currently paying for a streaming service.

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Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief at Canadian Musician and Canadian Music Trade magazines. He also hosts the Canadian Musician Podcast.
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