The numbers are in at the midway pole of 2019, and “King” George Strait has the best selling album in all of country music so far this calendar year. Honky Tonk Time Machine has moved more copies than any other offering, speaking to the honky tonk resurgence country music has been experiencing across the board that has put a boost behind twang in 2019.
Released on March 29th, Honky Tonk Time Machine debuted at #1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart with 51,000 equivalent albums sold, and 44,000 in pure album sales. This was good enough to give Strait the best-selling album sales week in country so far in 2019, and also put him at #4 on the all-genre Billboard 200. It also extended Strait’s already historic marker for the most #1 albums in country music history with 27 under his belt, putting Strait 10 albums ahead of the nearest competition. Both Garth Brooks and Willie Nelson have 17 #1 albums to their name.
Subsequently Honky Tonk Time Machine has sold another 69,000 in physical copies and cohesive downloads, making him #1 in country music for 2019 so far. Coming in second is Kacey Musgraves and her latest album Golden Hour. Bolstered by the album’s very rare triple crown win for taking home the trophies for the ACM, CMA, and Grammy Albums of the Year, she has sold 97,000 albums so far in 2019. This is followed by This One’s For You by Luke Combs. Released over two years ago, the major label debut continues to receive incredible traction as Combs continues to break records and benchmarks, putting in a bid for being considered one of the most successful breakout country artists in history.
Also surprising on the list is Chris Stapleton and his now four year old album Traveller. It comes in at #5 with 80,000 units shipped so far in 2019, right in front of Carrie Underwood and Cry Pretty with 79,000. Brooks & Dunn also surprise with their Reboot project re-recording many of their hits with today’s artists, coming in at #10 with 52,000 albums sold. All of these numbers are courtesy of Billboard.
Of course these numbers look completely different when factoring in streaming equivalents, which put Luke Combs well on top, and almost doubling up on the competition with This One’s For You receiving credit for 605,000 units sold primarily based off of streams. 3,750 ad-supported streams generated by a song, or 1,250 paid subscription streams generated by a song equal one album sale in Billboard’s system. Physical sales and downloads are still weighted heaviest on albums charts since they signal a greater commitment from a consumer behind a title, and also generate more revenue for the artist. Often older artists, and more independent artists are left out of the streaming battle because fans are listening to their physical copies or downloads, and are not racking up metadata for their favorite artists.
George Strait’s success is also not just relegated to physical album sales. His latest radio single “Every Little Honky Tonk Bar” shot up the charts upon release, debuting at #20 in February, and spending months in the Top 20, peaking at #17, and giving Strait his best showing on radio since 2013.
Traditional country is not done yet, and neither is George Strait.
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2019’s Mid-Year Top 10 Selling Country Albums
1. George Strait, Honky Tonk Time Machine (113,000)
2. Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour (97,000)
3. Luke Combs, This One’s For You (91,000)
4. Florida Georgia Line, Can’t Say I Ain’t Country (82,000)
5. Chris Stapleton, Traveller (80,000)
6. Carrie Underwood, Cry Pretty (79,000)
7. Maren Morris, Girl (60,000)
8. Thomas Rhett, Center Point Road (59,000)
9. Dan + Shay, Dan + Shay (53,000)
10. Brooks & Dunn, Reboot (52,000)