Since the Best New Artist Grammy was first awarded in 1959, only a handful of winners have been country music artists. This year, not only are two of the nominees country artists, but they’re also women.
On the heels of their breakout successes last year, Kelsea Ballerini and Maren Morris are up for the Best New Artist nod at this year’s Grammy Awards. In a highly competitive field, each performer has taken the country genre by storm and garnered significant commercial success along the way. Knoxville-native Kelsea Ballerini was the first woman to lead both the Top Hot Country Songs chart and the Country Airplay chart with “Peter Pan,” a song that has been streamed more than 84 million times across audio and video platforms. When Maren Morris released her major label debut, Hero, it landed at the top of the Billboard Country Albums Chart—the first time a woman has debuted on the Country chart at No. 1 since 2014. With sales of 41,000 in the first week, including album sales and track equivalent album sales (TEA) at a 10:1 radio, Hero has sold nearly 300,000 albums since its June 2016 release.
In addition to the nods for Morris and Ballerini, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Loretta Lynn, Cassadee Pope and Dolly Parton are all up for awards at this Sunday’s Grammys. In fact, women outnumber this year’s male nominees in the Best Country Album category, and Keith Urban is the lone male nominee in the Best Country Solo Performance category.
In the Best New Artist category, Morris and Ballerini are up against The Chainsmokers, Chance the Rapper and Anderson .Paak. While these artists all have enjoyed successes this year, the way their fans consume their music couldn’t be more different. As detailed in the 2016 U.S. Nielsen Year-End Music Report, fans of different genres have unique ways of tuning in to the music they love.
While Country music still derives a large share of its total consumption volume from physical sales (37% in 2016) aided in part by radio airplay, Hip-Hop continues to rely on on-demand audio streaming. Last year, 48% of all Hip Hop music consumption came from on-demand streaming, and the format led all other genres with a 28% of all on-demand streams. This trend was especially important for Chance the Rapper, who released his third mixtape, Coloring Book, in 2016 as a streaming-only album—the first to ever receive a Grammy nomination. To date, Coloring Book has been listened to more than 867 million times on various streaming audio platforms. By comparison, Ballerini and Morris have had their music streamed 179 and 126 million times, respectively. They have sold a total of 460,000 and 326,000 albums, respectively, including TEA.