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By Billboard

On May 31, Thomas Rhett’s Center Point Road scored him his second Billboard 200 No. 1 -- and his first streaming smash. The album raked in 33.59 million on-demand audio streams in its debut week (according to Nielsen Music), the biggest first streaming week ever for a country album. Meanwhile, Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus are enjoying a 10th week atop the Billboard Hot 100 and the Streaming Songs chart with “Old Town Road”; Rhett, Blake Shelton and Morgan Wallen are also charting on the latter list.

“Country music fans are really starting to discover and appreciate the benefits of streaming,” says Apple Music global head of country music Jay Liepis. Between January and April, country streams on Apple Music jumped an estimated 49.3% in the United States. “We continue to be up roughly 50% year over year,” says Liepis, “which is really promising.” He says 29-year-old Rhett not only appeals to a wider fan base, he also is a member of the streaming generation himself.

Rhett worked with Apple Music to create a track-by-track breakdown of his new album, and before it dropped, it broke the service’s record for the country album with the most pre-adds worldwide. (Likewise, YouTube label relations manager Margaret Hart says that Rhett and his team “consistently find new ways to engage with fans” on that platform as well.) Says Liepis: “When you start to see albums like Center Point Road and EPs like Luke Combs The Prequel in the top of the Apple Music charts, it’s clear more and more music fans are streaming country music.”

This article originally appeared in the June 15 issue of Billboard.


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