Updated on December 10, 2021
Early this year, I wrote about how R&B and hip-hop became the most popular genre for streaming music, easily eclipsing rock music.
It looks like that streak’s come to dominate music listening as a whole. Nielsen reports that as of the first half of this year, R&B and hip-hop are now the most popular music genres overall, eclipsing rock music. Rock does still dominate album sales, but of course, physical album sales aren’t a growing market overall, vinyl enthusiasts aside. R&B/hip-hop claimed about 25% of the music market for the first half of 2017, compared to rock’s 23%.
Why the changes in genre popularity?
Streaming’s credited for the strength of the two genres, of course. The music service Tidal built itself into a presence mainly on the strength of artists like Jay-Z (who’s also a co-owner).
Meanwhile, rock music seems to have declined in prominence lately. I admit I might not keep up as well as I should with what’s popular. Still, it feels like it’s been awhile since a new rock group or related genre’s made big waves among the general public. The rise of alternative rock in the 90s seems like the most recent major rock music craze, and that’s awhile ago.
The most prominent genre of the 2010s that isn’t hip-hop, pop, or R&B related seems to be electronic music and its sub-genres (dubstep, etc.).
An article on Quartz notes streaming’s popular with younger audiences, plus some rappers are fairly business-savvy. Quartz also observes (related to all of the above points) that electric guitar sales have fallen off, eclipsed since 2010 by sales of acoustic guitars. They state Nirvana doesn’t get “kids’” attention like Justin Bieber. That’d probably be because Nirvana’s (by my count) a classic rock act by now.
Looking over Billboard’s year-end singles charts for 2016, the top songs are largely hip-hop, pop, electronic, or R&B.
Of course, things can change, including tastes in music. Perhaps rock music (and electric guitars) will make a comeback.