Make that 2 billion streaming albums under Drake’s belt. The Toronto-based rapper and singer became the first artist in history to have the songs from two separate albums each amass more than 1 billion streams, according to Billboard data released Friday.
“Views,” the top-selling album of 2016 so far, cruised past the billion mark, to 1.07 billion streams, less than two months after its release; last year, his mixtape “If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late” climbed to that milestone steadily, after its surprise release.
While both achievements are significant, their circumstances were very different. When “If You’re Reading This” came out in early February last year, Spotify had fewer than 20 million paying subscribers. (Today, it has 30 million, and it's closing in on 100 million total users.) Jay Z was still finalizing his acquisition of Tidal, and Apple Music was little more than the subject of industry gossip. Even though streaming music was clearly ascendant, it was still regarded by some in the recording industry as a niche that was less important than old standbys like downloads and CDs.
Less than a year and a half later, streaming has officially become the largest source of American music consumption, and Apple, while it still trails Spotify in terms of subscribers, has begun investing substantial sums in certain artists, Drake included. Even though Drake and Apple kept “Views” exclusive to Apple Music for the first week of its release, it still went platinum easily, running over Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” on its way to the top of the Billboard album charts, a spot it’s held for more than a month. Since going out to a wider streaming release, it’s piled up the four biggest streaming weeks in pop music history.
Drake’s not the only artist to make a billion-streams album. Both the Weeknd’s “Beauty Behind the Madness” and Justin Bieber’s comeback smash “Purpose” tallied similar totals last year, thanks to a mix of runaway smashes – “I Can’t Feel My Face,” “Where Are U Now” — and actual engagement with the rest of the album; at one point last year, every single song on “Beauty Behind the Madness” had spent time on the Billboard charts.
As streaming continues to cement itself as the dominant mode of music listening, the tops of these record books are going to be rewritten many times over the next few years. But it could be a while before an artist with Drake’s level of popularity wipes this distinction out.