Zach Bryan’s “American Heartbreak” Album Already Setting Records

Zach Bryan and his new album American Heartbreak are having a moment, and when all is said and done and the dust settles, it’s likely to ensconce the singer/songwriter among the very top artists in country music.

Though we won’t have the official numbers and chart placements for American Heartbreak until next week, all the signs are pointing up for the album. Upon its release, American Heartbreak set the record in 2022 for the most streams of a country album on both Spotify and Apple Music. It currently still sits at #1 on the iTunes country charts, and #4 all genre. American Heartbreak is currently on the path to rack up an estimated 70 million streams in its first week, not to mention the physical sales of the double CD set.

HITS Daily Double is currently projecting the album to move 67K units in physical albums and streaming equivalents over its first week, which would easily make it #1 in country over Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album, and likely put it at #4 or #5 in all of music. If it wasn’t for the monster release from Harry Styles this week, and Kendrick Lamar’s last week, Zach Bryan would be competing for #2 or #3 all genre.

Of course, the fact that American Heartbreak is a 34-song double album is helping to goose Zach Bryan’s numbers. But that doesn’t tell the full story. Regardless of the amount of tracks, engagement with the album is massive. It just happens to be that with so many songs, it helps the numbers compound upon 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 set up a program called RADAR US. It was created to spotlight up-and-coming music talent by giving them an opportunity to broaden their fanbase through a comprehensive marketing, content, and editorial campaign. Think of it as similar to iHeartMedia’s “On The Verge” campaign that puts extra spins behind an emerging artist at country radio.

Spotify has chosen Zach Bryan as the first ever country artist to be the beneficiary of the global program. The decision was announced last week ahead of the release of American Heartbreak. Zach’s song “Something in the Orange” appears on the #1 spot on the campaign’s official playlist, though the campaign’s reach goes much deeper. Interestingly, 49 Winchester’s song “Russell County Line” also appears on that RADAR US playlist.

“We saw that our listeners were responding to Zach early on with his stripped-down, salt-of-the-earth sound and honest lyrics,” says Rachel Whitney, Head of Editorial for Spotify in Nashville. “It has been incredible to see his growth over the past two years … His talent is undeniable, and his new music has already begun to reach chart-topping status. This is just the beginning, and we’re so excited to introduce him to a broader fanbase through our RADAR US program.” 

As Saving Country Music reported in April of 2021, Rachel Whitney replaced the previous Spotify director John Marks. John Marks had held that position at Spotify since 2015, and was previously the Head of Country Music Programming at SiriusXM since 2010.

Where John Marks had been instrumental in helping to break big Bro-Country acts like Florida Georgia Line and Chase Rice at his position at Sirius XM, Rachel Whitney was important in identifying the swelling grassroots support behind independent artists such as Cody Jinks, and helped appropriately program these artists into playlists in her previous positions at Pandora and YouTube Music before joining Spotify.

When Rachel Whitney took the Spotify position, we wondered if she would help give more independent artists equal footing among their radio supported peers when artists proved resonance among listeners. Helping to push artists like Zach Bryan via Spotify’s RADAR US initiative might be an example of this. Zach’s songs have reportedly racked up some 1 billion streams now globally.

The implications of Zach Bryan going #1 in country go beyond Zach Bryan himself. With the increased emphasis on streaming, it’s become increasingly difficult for independent artists to achieve #1 album status like Aaron Watson, Blackberry Smoke, Jason Isbell, and Sturgill Simpson did previously when a big debut in physical sales could put you over the top. But with Zach Bryan’s younger audience, he can compete with the Morgan Wallen’s of the world, and he very well might just beat them.

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