2020 sales data shows rock music’s enduring popularity is based entirely on classical rock

Most of the biggest rock albums of the year were hit collections.

According to a recent report by MRC Data (formerly Nielsen Music), R & B / hip-hop remains the most popular musical genre in the United States. In 2020, R & B / hip-hop accounted for 28.2% of the total volume of music consumed, while rock took second place with 19.5% and pop third with 12.9%. The popularity of rock may surprise music listeners, as few of today’s rock bands have the kind of star power of their rap, pop and R&B counterparts. But a closer look at the data reveals that rock’s enduring popularity can primarily be attributed to classical rock.

Four of the top five rock albums of 2020 are hit albums filled with songs from the 1970s and 1980s. Here is MRC’s list, which is ranked using a metric of equivalent album units, including album sales, equivalent track albums (TEA) and equivalent streaming albums (SEA):

  1. Queen – The biggest hits

  2. Elton John – Diamonds

  3. Fleetwood Mac – Rumors

  4. Creedence Clearwater Revival feat. John Fogerty – Column: The 20 greatest hits

  5. Journey – Journey’s greatest hits

The only non-compilation album on the list is Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, which received a huge boost last year when their song “Dreams” went viral thanks to TikTok. In fact, MRC Data (which combines traditional digital song sales with streaming statistics) also shows “Dreams” to be the most popular rock song of 2020. The song was released in 1977.

The top five songs also included Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin ‘” and the Eagles’ “Hotel California”, which were released in 1981 and 1976, respectively. Even Imagine Dragons’ “Believer” is three years old. The only rock song actually released in 2020 is AJR’s “Bang”.

  1. Fleetwood Mac “Dreams”
  2. AJR “Bang! “
  3. Imagine “believing” dragons
  4. “Don’t stop believing” trip
  5. Eagles “Hotel California”

A similar dynamic played out on rock radio. While the two most popular songs were Panic! on Disco’s 2018 song “High Hopes” and AJR’s “Bang”, the top five were rounded out with three songs from the 80s; “Don’t Stop Believin ‘”, “Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi and “I Love Rock ‘N Roll” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.

Physical sales is an area that rock still dominates. Rock accounted for 44% of all physical album sales and 30.8% of digital album sales. For comparison, hip-hop / R & B is only 12.3% and 16.2%. the Queen The biggest hits and the beatles Abbey route were two of the best-selling physical albums. These two albums, plus Rumors, were also in the top 10 best-selling vinyl albums.

From the statistics, it is clear that four decades after its inception, hip-hop flourished in the age of streaming. Meanwhile, rock music may have reached its peak just as hip-hop was born.


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