Arcade Fire's would-be social critique Everything Now hit number one on Billboard's albums chart last week, with 100,000 equivalent units sold (this counts streaming). It's the third straight album of theirs to do so. However, as the New York Times points out, its streaming numbers are low (7.9 million) compared to the number two album of the week, Kendrick Lamar's DAMN., a juggernaut with 46 million streams but only 46,000 equivalent units sold in that week. Let's look at how the metrics stack up.
If you're confused, that's normal, because music sales are confusing these days. "Pure sales" refer to anyone actually purchasing copies of the album, whether physical or digital. Streams get crunched down to a smaller number that contributes to the overall sales.
There's a pretty clear difference in those pure sales here, which could mean the obvious: a lot of not-plugged-in people really care about Arcade Fire and are willing to buy vinyls, digital downloads, or even CDs. You could chalk it up to a difference in audience, as Arcade Fire's fans likely skew slightly older and more alternative-rock-oriented than Kendrick's and thus are more used to and financially able making the effort to, y'know, actually own their favourite media in some capacity. Not that streaming's laissez-faire rights management is a bad thing (but it totally could be).
The genre sync-up of this consumption divide, with Arcade Fire being a rock band that has used an image of analog authenticity in the past and Kendrick being a rapper who kinda doesn't give a fuck about any of those qualifiers, should also be put into consideration. Though rap and R&B rightfully dominate cultural conversations and are the backbone of most pop music, rock still has a devoted audience, uncoolness be damned. Let's not forget Kendrick, though, still holding strong from streaming numbers that are impressive from an album that's several months old. My friends, music consumption is truly wild.
Phil is a Noisey staff writer. He's on Twitter.