Americana Genre Continues to Rise, Outsells Country on ‘Billboard’ Charts
Just a few months after creating the Americana and Folk Albums chart, Billboard has announced that Americana albums are outselling virtually every other genre - including country! On the Oct. 22 Billboard charts, four full-length releases landed in the Top 10 highest-selling albums, all of which qualify under the Americana/Folk Albums chart.
When Bon Iver's 22, A Million, Bob Weir's Blue Mountain, Van Morrison's Keep Me Singing and Drive-By Truckers' American Band all landed in the Top 10 this week, they pushed the Americana genre over its tipping point, marking more in sales than any other genre outside of rock. That includes R&B/hip-hop, dance and -- even in the midst of dominating Top Country Albums from Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line and Chris Stapleton -- country music. It's the first time the genre has outsold country sales among weekly Top 10 sellers since Billboard renamed the Folk Albums chart, but the surprise upset isn't actually a surprise to as many as listeners might think.
"I think it's burgeoning in the commercial marketplace for a community that already existed in a non-commercial marketplace," Jed Hilly, executive director of the Americana Music Association tells Billboard. "I think that the fact that there's a word in the dictionary, there's a Grammy Award, [now] there's a place for these artists who don't necessarily fit in the mainstream commercial boxes, but do have artistic similarities can call home."
Of course, each of the four highest-selling albums in the Top 10 this week can also qualify under the rock genre, but Hilly says that's just because the Americana genre is fluid and all-encompassing.
"Americana is a funny genre, because in some ways it can be very inclusive because it spans from blues to gospel to bluegrass influences, and it's a grittier style that crosses genre boundaries in some ways," he says. "I think all genres are expansive; I don't see any point in arguing. I just see it as a bigger conversation in the evolution of musical styles."
Ultimately, this week's historic selling of Americana albums marks what many people in the genre have been waiting for -- as well as a growing trend in the emergence of Americana into mainstream music. While the term traditionally acted as an overarching umbrella for any sort of traditional American music (including blues, gospel, folk and bluegrass), the word "Americana" has become a musical genre in its own right over the past few years. In fact, in 2015, Merriam-Webster gave the word an official definition in their prolific dictionary, calling it "a genre of American music having roots in early folk and country music." For the most part, Hilly agrees but says he would add one addendum: "If you can taste the dirt through your ears, that's Americana."