The Latest Stats Are In. And You Can Kiss Your Album Sales Recovery Goodbye

No, you can’t have your old industry back.

Here are the latest, year-to-date sales figures for 2012, which show a 3.2 percent decline in year-over-year album sales in the US.  That follows a relatively flat 2011, widely touted as a recovery but more realistically a result of insane Adele sales and heavily-discounted catalog releases.

The better news is that digital formats continue to grow, both in terms of digital albums and a-la-carte singles.  Vinyl growth may be slowing, but is still showing double-digital percentage gains.

Here’s the US-based breakdown for the first half of this year, shared by Nielsen Soundscan.

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17 Responses

  1. @ghogsett

    Interesting that catalog sales out pace current.

    • Walmart/Target etc...

      That is because of new deals between the labels and the big box stores to drop large handfuls of catalogue albums to really low new CD prices: $4.99 and $5.99. Included are some pretty popular albums (Like a Prayer by Madonna), and tons of greatest hits compilations. Apparently, these titles have been being gobbled up at the big box stores.

  2. Me

    Might have something to do with the plethora of underwhelming albums this year.

  3. QSDC

    It’s too bad that Michael Jackson can’t die every year.

  4. Jimi LaLumia

    albums are not events anymore;

    the albums that were events, back in the day, continue to sell;

    watch for a surge of interest in Wayne County & The Electric Chairs

    albums in 2013, when the “CBGB” movie is released…

    • Andrew

      Please stay on topic here, and don’t spam with your Wayne County posts, like you do on other sites.

  5. Me

    It also doesn’t help that terrestrial radio doesn’t tout newer albums as much as they do catalog albums.

  6. @waynecarterrad

    for those who insist vinyl is “coming back”


  7. @samhouston

    Interesting that overall Album sales are down, but Digital Track and Digi Album sales are up

    • wallow-T

      On overall album sales (down) versus digital sales (up):

      Paul didn’t break out the CD album sales numbers. Cribbing from Billboard: Down 11.8% in the first half (1st + 2nd quarter); down 15.1% in the second quarter alone, which suggests accelerating decline. As Billboard puts it, the CD appears to be resuming the downward path it was on from 2006-2010, when annual declines were close to 20%.

      Numbers from physical CD retail categories indicate a continued wipeout at “bricks-n-mortar” outlets. Chain store CD sales down 26%. Indie store CD sales down 14%. Mass merchant CD sales down 5%.

      Increasingly it may be useful to think of two businesses: a new digital file business which is growing steadily, and an old CD business which may not end for years, but which is steadily becoming more marginalized.

      (On a personal note: My neighbor had a yard sale last weekend, and nobody wanted the CD storage gear — not even when it was left on the curb for free.)

  8. Robbie Fields

    Christmas will come at least twice this year …

    December 25, 2011 saw our typical annual digital sales surge arrive, albeit a day later than usual.

    Saturday, February 11 saw a second sales surge that lasted 3 days beginning that afternoon as news spread of Whitney Houston’s death.

    And we sell deep catalog punk rock.

    So what happened? Those sometime fans of Whitney’s demanded their iPhone or a spare iPod be loaded with her music and since they were clueless about the process told Junior to help himself from the iTunes store for his trouble.

    The singles/albums ratio for the industry is still horrendous, indicative of overpriced albums.

    We’re at a 1.5 singles/albums ratio. And we expect every single purchaser to come back and buy the rest of the album (due to Apple’s innovative “Complete My Album” initiative.)

    Oh, and we’re at the $3.99 price point for directly distributed album titles. $5.99 worked for 2011 … not this year.

  9. Paradox

    Good news then

    Digital album increased by 7 millions

    Physical albums dropped by 5 millions


  10. Wow Pow Bash Crash

    Jimi LaLumia is an American treasure! Long Live Wayne County!

  11. Caution

    More legacy stars will be ‘knocked off’ to help stem the album format slide.

  12. peguese

    Good info here. Would have been great to see which outlets are selling the most downloads. Nevertheless, good info….

  13. Tony van Veen

    What these stats are telling me is that – shockingly – CDs are outselling digital albums by 59% in the first half of 2012! It’s simple math (unless I’m misinterpreting something in the numbers, Paul):

    1H 11 1H 12
    CD sales 103.3 91.1 -11.8%
    digital album sales 50.3 57.2 13.7%
    LP sales 1.9 2.2 15.8%
    total album sales 155.5 150.5 -3.2%

    91.1M CDs vs. 57.2M digital albums.

    I’ve seen the lasting strength of CDs firsthand – Disc Makers’ CD revenues are up ever so slightly (1%) this year. But our digital sales for CD Baby are up much more: a strong double digits – over 20%. The market is clearly shifting, but the resilience of the CD is good news for artists who make their money gigging – where they can drive more income by selling CDs directly to their fans.

    Tony van Veen

    Disc Makers | CD Baby