Scorpion clicks: What Drake's first week tells us about the music biz right now


Talk about timing. The Official Charts Company’s latest chart changes – adding video streams and upgrading premium streams while downgrading free ones – kicked in this week, just as an absolute streaming monster of a record, Drake’s Scorpion (Cash Money/Republic/Island), hit the virtual racks.

Globally, Scorpion has spent the last few days shattering streaming records. Spotify – which granted Drake the first-ever 'global dedicated artist takeover’ of its service, something that has attracted a lot of debate, and some outright mockery online – saw the album rack up over 132 million streams in its first day.

Despite that Spotify takeover, Apple Music says Scorpion did even better on its service. It’s already passed the Apple Music record for global Week 1 album streams. Scorpion also provides nine of the Top 10 most-streamed songs in a single day on Apple, while the day Scorpion dropped constituted the biggest day in Apple Music history in terms of unique listeners. And, crucially, Apple says its 170m streams on their platform constitutes a new Day One record for album streams on any service, ever. In your face, Spotify.

How Apple outdid Spotify when it has significantly fewer subscribers worldwide (albeit now almost neck-and-neck in the US) will be intriguing the biz this week, especially as many label sources tell Music Week Spotify often delivers proportionately more plays on hit tracks than the respective subscriber bases suggest it should.

Did Spotify’s promo overkill put some of its customers off? Did Drake’s previous Apple exclusives mean his fans were already on that service rather than rival ones? Did a Spotify glitch cost it dear? Or does Apple just own hip-hop?

We may never know the full answers to these questions, but here’s one we can help you with: What does all that streaming stat Armageddon mean in the real world of the UK charts? Well, maybe not as much as you might think…

Now, Drake is heading for a No.1 album, overhauling Florence + The Machine’s lead in early sales flashes by the time Music Week’s official Monday midweek update came along. But it’s only narrowly ahead of Florence, whose 29,572 sales (up until Monday’s midweek) were heavily biased towards physical.

Scorpion, of course, has no physical edition as yet, meaning sales are heavily weighted towards streaming: 19,164 of its Monday total of 30,545 came on the format, according to the Official Charts Company, with some streaming data for the period still missing.


While the lack of physical product may mean Drake is leaving money – and vital chart points – on the table, his streaming units bode well for the life of the record


Yet Drake’s healthy downloads total – 11,381 up until Monday, far in excess of Florence’s download total and 37.3% of Scorpion’s sales at a time when downloads usually account for less than 10% of album units – suggests ownership may not be quite as over for his fanbase as he and the streaming companies like to think.

But, while the lack of physical product may mean Drake is leaving money – and vital chart points – on the table, his streaming units bode well for the life of the record. Unlike some recent high-profile releases, the streaming numbers did not fall off a cliff on Day Two, instead racking up daily SEA numbers of 11,400 and then 7,764 (both of which would be reasonable whole week, all-format totals for some albums). 

Single tracks-wise, the numbers are also impressive, and relatively evenly distributed across the double album’s 25 tracks, suggesting full-album listening may have a future on streaming after all. Drake has plenty of previous experience in this sector, of course, his One Dance’s near-record-breaking tenure at No.1 contributing to a chart change of its own (the increased sales:streaming ratio for records in long-term decline). His most streamed track, Nonstop, had moved a Monday total of 21,186 units, most coming from 2,221,637 streams (the OCC does not yet separate premium and free streams on its breakdown). Even its least popular track, March 14, had 6,622 units, from 699,697 streams. Ironically, Nonstop may end up being denied the No.1 spot thanks to the OCC’s inclusion of video streams, with George Ezra’s Shotgun video total dwarfing that of Drake’s track, which only has an ‘official audio’ version on YouTube.

And, while Drake may be smashing records around the world, don’t expect Scorpion to set too many UK benchmarks once its first week here is done and dusted. On Sandra’s Rose he may boast of “Every title doin’ numbers like I’m Miss Adele”, but Ed Sheeran’s ÷ (Asylum/Atlantic) total of 78,944 streaming ‘sales’ in its first week (out of a mammoth 671,542 total) already looks like it may be out of reach.

That’s unlikely to bother Drizzy too much. But while Scorpion may represent a potential new model for music retail – no physical sales, a huge streaming battleground – the bigger picture suggests the future may have to wait a while in the UK.

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