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    Music streaming up and sound recording sales down: a trend accelerated by the pandemic

    Québec, July 8, 2021. – In 2020, in Québec, sound recording sales in album equivalent units totalled 2.3 million units, a 36% drop from 2019. This was the largest annual decline in sales in 10 years. Sales of all types of products were down from 2019: CDs (-48%), vinyl records (-14%), digital albums (-16%), and digital tracks (-23%).

    However, during this year marked by the pandemic, music streaming across Canada continued its upward trend, growing by 16% in 2020. This was revealed in Optique culture No. 76 published today by the Observatoire de la culture et des communications of the Institut de la statistique du Québec.

    Sound recording sales by type of product in Québec and number of music streams in Canada, 2015 to 2020

    Sound recording sales by type of product in Québec and number of music streams in Canada, 2015 to 2020

    1. Thirteen digital tracks equal one album.
    Source: Nielsen Music / MRC Data. All rights reserved.

    Sharp drop in CD and vinyl record sales at the start of the pandemic

    Sound recording sales were particularly affected during the first weeks of the pandemic. Compared to March 13, 2020, the day the health emergency was declared:

    • Weekly sales of physical products (CDs and vinyl records) dropped by 87% in three weeks. It wasn’t until November 2020 and the growth in sales associated with the holiday season that results were once again similar to those in the beginning of the year.
    • Digital track and album sales were down the first week, but returned to normal the following week. Digital album sales even increased slightly during the year.
    • Music streaming services experienced a decline in the first two weeks, but then began to grow again, returning to pre-pandemic levels in about 10 weeks.

    Market share of Québec products holds steady

    In 2020, the share of Québec products in sound recording sales stood at 49% (50% in 2019). This share varied by medium:

    • 55% for physical products (CDs and vinyl records);
    • 36% for digital products (54% for digital albums and 17% for digital tracks).

    Among Québec album sales, the share held by French-language products was 63% in 2020, down from 65% in 2019.

    Québec artists on music streaming services

    Although a breakdown of music streaming data is not fully available for Québec, the statistics compiled by Nielsen Music / MRC Data allow us to establish Québec artists’ share in the number of streams for all of Canada:

    • From 2015 to 2020, the number of Québec artist audio song streams increased from 155 million to 1,786 million. The share of these streams in total streams on music streaming services in Canada remained at around 2% over that period;
    • The top-streamed Québec song in 2020 on these services in Canada was L’Amérique pleure by Les Cowboys Fringants;
    • Céline Dion, Les Cowboys Fringants and Alexandra Stréliski were the top 3 most streamed Québec artists in Canada;
    • Of the five most streamed French-speaking Québec artists since 2015, four (Loud, Enima, Souldia and Fouki) are rap or hip-hop artists.


    The Institut de la statistique du Québec produces, analyzes and disseminates official, objective and quality statistical information on various aspects of Québec society. It is responsible for conducting all statistical surveys of general interest. The relevance of its work makes it a strategic ally for decision makers and all those wishing to learn more about Québec.

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