Just 8% of Albums Were Sold by Indie Retailers Last Year

Doesn’t that change the debate a little?

Despite their impressive cache and importance to real music fans, indie retailers come nowhere near level of tonnage offered by big box retailers, large chains and iTunes.  That’s according to Nielsen Soundscan, which found that just 8 percent of albums were sold through independent retailers last year, compared to roughly 56 percent from heavyweights like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Target.

And, 26 percent from iTunes, AmazonMP3, and other online outlets.  The rest, about 7 percent, came from online purchases of actual CDs, mainly from places like Amazon.

With numbers so lopsided, the recent decision by Jay-Z and Kanye West to prioritize both iTunes and Best Buy on their upcoming release makes more sense.  Yet indie retailers openly complained to the duo – known as ‘The Throne’ – for not offering independent retailers access to first-run releases and exclusives.  The consortium of 1,700 retailers also accused the rappers of being “short-sighted” while disrespecting years of important support.

But there’s another wrinkle being shown by the data, one related to genre.  Impressively, indie retailers account for a monstrous 71 percent of vinyl sales, though the biggest-selling LPs are typically rock or indie.  All of which suggests that indie retailers made little business sense for The Throne, especially if they discouraged exclusive participation from iTunes and Best Buy.