Zach Bryan and his new album American grief have a moment, and when it’s all said and done and the dust settles, the singer/songwriter is likely to be among the top artists in country music.
Although we don’t have the official numbers and chart placements for American grief until next week, all signs point to the album. Upon its release, American grief set the record in 2022 for the most streams of a country album on Spotify and Apple Music. It currently still sits at #1 on the national iTunes charts and #4 across all genres. American grief is currently on track to rack up around 70 million streams in its first week, not to mention physical sales of the double CD.
HITS Daily Double currently predicts the album will move 67,000 units in physical albums and streaming equivalents in its first week, which would easily make it number 1 in the country over Morgan Wallen. Dangerous: the double album, and will likely put it at #4 or #5 in all music. If it hadn’t been for Harry Styles’ monster outing this week and Kendrick Lamar’s last week, Zach Bryan would be in contention for No. 2 or No. 3 All Genres.
Of course, the fact that American grief is a 34-song double album that helps boost Zach Bryan’s numbers. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Regardless of the amount of tracks, the engagement with the album is massive. It just so happens that with so many songs, it helps the numbers pile up on top of each other.
Zach Bryan is also getting a boost from Spotify, and it’s the first of its kind for a country music artist. In 2020, Spotify implemented a program called RADAR US. It was created to spotlight up-and-coming musical talent by giving them the opportunity to grow their fan base through a comprehensive marketing, content and editorial campaign. Think of it as similar to iHeartMedia’s “On The Verge” campaign that puts extra turns behind an up-and-coming artist on country radio.
Spotify has chosen Zach Bryan as the first country artist to benefit from the global program. The decision was announced last week ahead of the publication of American grief. Zach’s song “Something in the Orange” appears at number one on the campaign’s official playlist, though the reach of the campaign is much deeper. Interestingly, the song “Russell County Line” by 49 Winchester also appears on this US RADAR playlist.
“We saw that our listeners responded to Zach early on with his stripped down, salty earth sound and honest lyrics,” says Rachel Whitney, managing editor of Spotify in Nashville. “It’s been amazing to watch his growth over the past couple of years… His talent is undeniable and his new music has already started to hit the top of the charts.” It’s just the beginning, and we’re excited to introduce it to a wider fanbase through our RADAR US program.
Like saving country music reported in April 2021, Rachel Whitney has replaced the former head of Spotify, John Marks. John Marks had held this position at Spotify since 2015 and was previously head of country music programming at SiriusXM since 2010.
Where John Marks had been instrumental in helping break up big Bro-Country bands like Florida Georgia Line and Chase Rice in his position at Sirius XM, Rachel Whitney was instrumental in identifying the growing support of the base behind indie artists such as Cody Jinks, and appropriately helped schedule those artists into playlists in his previous roles at Pandora and YouTube Music before joining Spotify.
When Rachel Whitney took over the Spotify job, we wondered if she would help give more independent artists equal footing among their radio-supported peers when artists proved their resonance among listeners. Helping to push artists like Zach Bryan through Spotify’s RADAR US initiative might be one example. Zach’s songs have reportedly racked up around 1 billion streams worldwide.
The implications of Zach Bryan becoming No. 1 in the nation go beyond Zach Bryan himself. With the increased focus on streaming, it has become increasingly difficult for independent artists to achieve #1 album status like Aaron Watson, Blackberry Smoke, Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson have done before. when a big start in physical sales could put you over the top. But with Zach Bryan’s younger audience, he can rival the Morgan Wallens of the world, and he could very well beat them.