One-Third Of All Albums Were Purchased at Big Box Retailers Last Year

That’s right.

According to Nielsen Soundscan, 33% of all albums – physical, digital, vinyl, CD, whatever – were purchased at big box retailers like Walmart or Target in 2010.  And that doesn’t even include Best Buy, which was placed into a separate category (for whatever reason).

By contrast, just 8 percent of albums were purchased at independent retailers.  And what about digital albums?  Sales through places like the iTunes Store or Amazon MP3 accounted for 26 percent of the combined (physical+digital) total.

Now, here’s where the numbers flip.  When it comes to vinyl, which sold 2.8 million copies last year, independent retailers accounted for 71 percent of all sales.  Yet, vinyl accounts for roughly 1 percent of the broader album total.

All figures are US-specific.

4 Responses

  1. Visitor

    how do these big box/chain/indy retail shares compare to the past couple years?

  2. balbers

    This doesn’t surprise me.

    The knee-jerk instantaneous thinking behind this is that the people who used to buy from the brick and mortar mom-and-pop stores were lured into the big box chains because of their lower prices. I don’t think that’s accurate. I’m more cynical than that.

    I think it’s more likely that the knuckle-dragging mouth-breathing rednecks who frequent Walmart and Target simply haven’t spent enough time on their computers (if they even have one) to learn that there’s a cheaper way (i.e. free) of getting music. Plus, that demographic is more likely to be slightly older (and more comfortable in their old-fashioned (cd) ways and probably more resistent to change and technology) than the tech-savvy hipster indie kids who formerly spent their money at the mom-and-pop shops but who now spend more time searching for torrents than they spend at any record store.

    I think it supports my point that a few stories ago here on DMN that vinyl sales from last year were up 14%. I think that’s because records require a bit more computer literacy and expertise to digitize vinyl as opposed to just popping a cd in and hitting ‘import’ in iTunes. And 0% of that 14% came from the big boxers because they don’t sell records any more, do they?Which means that if the indie kids want something on vinyl, most of the time they don’t have any other option than to buy it from their local record store (if there are any left in their city).

    BTW- I just picked up a shower head at Walmart the other day, and I know I’m not a knuckle-dragging mouth-breathing redneck so I guess that makes me a hypocrite. Or at least not part of the typical Walmart shopper bell curve. So be it. They had a better selection and better prices than Hope Depot…

    Which reminds me of this wildly entertaining and sad website-