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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

REPORT | New Study Shows Canadian Music Consumption Soaring Amid COVID-19

By Anya Wassenberg on July 14, 2021


A recent survey from MRC Data in conjunction with Billboard Magazine offers a snapshot of the music industry in Canada, as well as globally, for the first six months of 2021. The figures were compared to the first six months of 2020, as the global pandemic first began to wreak havoc on the music and performing arts world.

The good news for the industry is that, overall, music consumption in Canada is up 10.6 percent year over year, and the figures surpass even the pre-COVID levels.

Insight from the report:

“Consumers are relying on musical optimism to get them through the aftermath of a stressful year, with 55% of music-listening survey respondents in an April study citing “Uplifting/happy music” as the
number one most important thing the music industry can offer during the COVID-19 outbreak.” (from the MRC Midyear Report — Canada)

In the US, 37 percent of consumers say that they are spending more time with music on a day-to-day basis, even as the country opens back up. The industry is expecting demand for live music to be high.

  • 59 percent of survey respondents said they miss socializing and meeting people at live events.
  • 38 percent of live event goers said they’d be willing to attend a live event one month or less after a
    treatment/vaccine is available to the public.

The No. 1 Best-Selling Album By A Canadian Is…Classical Crossover

While it may come as no surprise to find out that RnB artist The Weeknd is Canada’s No. 1 artist, including both digital streams and album sales, the No. 1 best-selling album by a Canadian definitely bucks industry trends.

The album Histoires Sans Paroles is a deluxe multi-disc set that features l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal playing the works of Harmonium. In Quebec, Harmonium is a cultural institution, a progressive rock band that was formed in 1972. The new recording with l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal is conducted by Simon Leclerc, who also created the orchestral arrangements. What makes the sales of 25,000 units even more remarkable is that they were only available on the band’s dedicated website.

The album also leads in digital sales with another 24,000. Violinist Angèle Dubeau’s album Immersion is fourth in digital sales (7,000).

Singer Charlotte Cardin’s album Phoenix comes in 2nd with 20K sales, followed by The Tragically Hip’s Saskadelphia with 17K sales. Saskadelphia also topped the vinyl album sales category with 4,000 units.

Crunching The Numbers

While music consumption is up overall, the way those figures break down is where changes in the industry can be seen. Notably, global digital song sales are down 12.5 percent, while on-demand song streams are up 27.5 percent

Canada follows a similar trend.

  • In Canada, total album sales are down just under 10 percent, and when you add something called “total album equivalent” or TEA, that jumps to 15 percent. (TEA is essentially taking total digital tracks and dividing them into albums.)
  • Digital album sales are down more than 24 percent in Canada, with digital track sales down just under 27 percent.

In contrast (all Canadian figures):

  • Total album consumption is up 10.6 percent.
  • On-demand song streaming is up 11.4 percent.
  • Total digital music consumption is up 10.9 percent.
  • Physical album sales are up 5 percent.
  • Vinyl album sales are up 53 percent, but it still represents a very small part of the market.

Livestreaming is still part of the picture, although the numbers have dropped considerably since live music venues have begun to reopen across North America. The future seems to hold a mix of live and livestreaming for fans and audiences.

Classical music consumption broke down a little differently than other categories:

  • On-demand video streams 1.1 percent
  • On-demand audio streams 73.5 percent
  • Digital track sales 1.8 percent
  • Digital albums 8.5 percent
  • Physical albums 13.1 percent

For pop music, in contrast, physical albums accounted for a mere 1.2 percent, while on-demand audio streams amounted to 91.5 percent of consumption. The bigger numbers when it comes to physical and digital album sales no doubt account for the fact that two of the top five best-selling albums by Canadians fall in the classical category.

The takeaway: Canadians love music and need it more than ever, although how we listen is changing.


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