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Streaming overtakes U.S. digital music sales for first time: Nielsen

NEW YORK — Canadian rapper Drake helped music streaming services explode in 2016, rising by 76 percent in the United States to overtake digital sales of music for the first time in history, Nielsen Music said Thursday.

Americans used on-demand streaming platforms, such as Apple Music, Google Play, Spotify, Pandora and Amazon Music, to listen to 431 billion songs in 2016, led by hip hop and R&B artists like Drake, The Weeknd, Kanye West and Rihanna, Nielsen said in its 2016 U.S. year-end report.

Some six songs, including New York rapper Desiiigner's "Panda" and Rihanna's "Work," surpassed 500 million total on demand streams in 2016, compared with just three that hit that mark in 2015.

The growth in streaming was more than enough to offset declines in other formats, particularly digital sales, leading to an overall 3 percent increase in music consumption compared with 2015, the report said.

"The music industry continues to grow at a healthy rate, and 2016 showed us that the landscape is evolving even more quickly than we have seen with other format shifts," said David Bakula, senior vice president of industry insights at Nielsen Music.

Among other bright spots for 2016, physical album sales became a larger share of total album sales than the prior year for the first time in a decade, the report said.

Vinyl continued an 11-year upward trend, reaching sales of 13 million in 2016 — the largest number since 1991.