The LP (long-playing) record was first available commercially in 1948. For years, it was the primary way that Americans listened to music. It began to be replaced by the CD (compact disc) in the early 1980s. At about the same time, Sony introduced the “Walkman” a portable music player.
The next major evolution of how people listened to music was “iTunes”, Apple’s allowed people to listen to content stored electronically. In 2013, Russ Crupnick, NPD’s senior vice president of industry analysis, made the comment that “Since the launch of Apple’s iTunes store, digital music downloads have become the dominant revenue source for the recorded-music industry, and iTunes continues to be the dominant retailer.”
The fact that the great majority of people listen to music online has changed the world for the artists who produce it.
24/7 Tempo picked the artist with the best-selling digital singles from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). For context, sales data on digital singles has been collected by the RIAA since 2004 and there are 422 artists with at least 5 million certified units in the category. We included a popular single for each artist we considered using Billboard Hot 100 chart data. All data is as of January 2022.
2021 has been an increasingly big year for a few of the artists on this list reinforcing their drive and current relevance. For example, Drake’s WIN of the “Top Streaming Songs Artist” award and Lady Gaga’s WIN of the “Top Dance/Electronic Artist” award at the 2021 Billboard music Awards.
Moreover, in the continuing pandemic, some artists like Ed Sheeran (who contracted Covid-19 last year), persevered with home performances and a new album release in the fall of 2021.
The artist who sold the most music online is Drake. Here are the details:
> Digital singles: 163.5 million
> Single with the longest run on the Billboard Hot 100 chart: “Hotline Bling” (36 weeks)
> “Hotline Bling” peaked on chart: Apr 23, 2016