Luke Combs Returns to No. 1 With a Streaming Record for Country Music


When the country everybro Luke Combs released his album “What You See Is What You Get” a year ago, it became a streaming blockbuster — a rare trophy in Nashville, which has lagged behind most other genres in the shift to streaming.

With “What You See Ain’t Always What You Get,” a reissued version of that album, Combs has proved just how much he has learned from pop and hip-hop stars in driving clicks online. The new version opened at No. 1 on Billboard’s latest chart, with the equivalent of 109,000 sales in the United States, according to Nielsen Music; about 70 percent of that total was derived from the album’s 102 million streams.

Lesson 1: Give your album another shot on the charts with a “deluxe” version. Reissues with added songs have become hip-hop’s most effective new gimmick, used by Lil Baby, Lil Uzi Vert, Nav, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie and others to extend the sales streaks for recent LPs. The new version of “What You See” has six tracks that were not on the original album.

Lesson 2: Promote on TikTok. Again and again. Combs has two million followers on the bite-size video app, which has become the industry’s most reliable hit generator, whether that means Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” or Fleetwood Mac’s 43-year-old “Dreams.” Combs has been seeding the new version of “What You See” on TikTok for months, posting versions of his new songs, including “Forever After All,” which this week also opens at No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart, just behind Ariana Grande’s brand-new “Positions.”

Those tactics helped Combs get the most streams of any country album in a week, breaking the record he set last year. For a sense of just how far country music has come with streaming, before Combs, that record was held by Gene Autry — who died in 1998 but whose album “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Other Christmas Classics” had racked up 44 million streams during the 2018 holiday season.

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In addition to streams, “What You See” sold 22,000 copies as a complete package, and in an era of cratering single sales, songs from the album sold a remarkable 109,000 copies on download stores like iTunes.

Also this week, Bruce Springsteen’s “Letter to You,” his first new album with the E Street Band in six years, opened at No. 2 and the rapper Ty Dolla Sign started at No. 4 with his new LP, “Featuring Ty Dolla Sign.”

Two posthumous rap albums that have been steady hits since July continue to hold strong on the chart, with Pop Smoke’s “Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon” at No. 3, and Juice WRLD’s “Legends Never Die” at No. 5.


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