But Wait: Year-to-Date Sales May Actually Be DOWN…

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We thought this might be a bottom, but now, the bottom is falling out of that theory.

Because every statistic related to year-to-date recording sales increases have been based on unit sales, not revenues.  And increasingly, sources to Digital Music News keep pointing to a serious problem on these US-based figures: per-unit pricing.

Which means that actual recording revenues may be DOWN on the year, regardless of how strong the unit-by-unit measurements are.

We’ve heard whisper numbers in the red, though the problem seems to be selective disclosure.  Every week, the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) trumpets album and singles sales increases, based on the selective units metric. “The overall year-over-year comparisons continue to be strong,” NARM president Jim Donio emailed us this morning, while noting that album sales are “3-plus percent” higher than the total at the same point last year.  “This is also the 20th straight week where year-to-date albums are up over their 2010 numbers.”

Sounds great, except that NARM refused to share any per-unit pricing or revenue details.  On that, they referred us back to Nielsen Soundscan, which supplied them the data in the first place (you see where this is going.)

But this is more than just academic foible.  Because serious questions remain on the viability of selling recordings – and particularly albums – moving forward.  And instead of stabilizing, the album format may still be eroding, despite increases on the digital album side (which are based on a far smaller base).

Then, there are lower-earning singles, which remain up 10 percent on the year, also according to Nielsen.  Perhaps that is the statistic with the greatest viability, given smaller variances in per-download prices and revenues.