The Album Is Now Completely Collapsing In Britain…

So when does America experience the exact same thing? The warning signs in Britain looked something like this…

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But that was just a preview.  According to stats just published by the Official Charts Company, the best-selling album in the UK last week sold just 9,578 units.  It was Rihanna’s Talk That Talk, and it’s the lowest total since the company started tracking sales in 1994.

There are no other records to show a slower-selling album release.  The UK has a population of roughly 60 million.

The CD and broader album bundle have been dying for years, though back in the day, the UK was regarded as a holdout.  Part of that was based on a lag in technology, though many pointed to the greatest, most rabid music fans in the world.  Turns out that doesn’t necessarily correlate with album sales.  Instead, voracious appetites have been unleased upon streaming, amassing massive download collections, or committing cash to concerts.

So what about the US?  Last year, sales seemed to flatten out, though there’s now a huge asterisk attached to that story.  Most of the sales were coming from deeply-discounted catalog releases, including $5 titles at places like Wal-mart.  At present, the CD sales story in the US is one of continued decline, though the summer has produced some seriously-slow sellers.

Actually, when it comes to the US, the exact same collapse could be right around the corner.  During the last week of July, Zac Brown Band’s Uncaged scored a number one album on sales of just 48,278 units.  Which is the second-lowest album total ever recorded, since tracking data started in 1991.

19 Responses

  1. Quirious

    So Paul, can you tell us what was the last album you bought on iTunes?

  2. wallow-T

    At least one USA retailer appears to be blaming the quality of new music releases.

    From Billboard, Aug 16, “Trans World Rebounds in First-Half of 2012.”:

    “But the company, which operates retailers such as f.y.e., didn’t get much help from what Higgins described as a ‘terrible’ slate of new music releases in the first two quarters of 2012.”

    If consumers have given up on albums, how come Adele sold around 10 million of them in North America, 4.5 million in the UK? Adele got the public’s interest: why are so few other musicians doing it?

    • lifer

      She remained true to herself. Rejected advice when it did not fit her perception of who she wanted to be.

      Hmmm. In some ways she expresses the same attitude as the ICP.

    • Frunobulax

      I agree expect the albums sale to jump back up when she releases another album.

      Also, I expect that her advisors will hold the album back from spotify again

  3. CBQ


    Adele has “crossed over” to that point where people who have no idea about music by her album.

    Do not expect anyone to often replicate this.

    It’s like shitty novelty singles which used to be bought by mums and dads at Xmas as their “only record they bought this year”…

    Crossing over into the point where people who do not normally buy music buy your album is great for bucks in the bank but means nothing artistically.

    Please, please, please stop whining on about how many albums Adele has sold.

    The people who buy her album do not normally buy music.

    I have tried to keep this succinct but if you can’t understand my point then I pity you.


    • daznez

      Sorry, don’t get your point. Adele’s music/ albums/ songs have a fantastic broad appeal, so that mainstream & indie ‘regular’ music fans bought it, and so did lots of people who (probably rightly) think that most other mainstream stuff is garbage and not worth bothering with.

      Shouldn’t that be the goal of every artist and label on the planet? To create the truest music they can and if alot of people like it to buy it, sorted?

      Or am I missing something?

    • Rob

      CBQ… you are partly right but I think your view of the music market is perhaps off beam. Yes, the Adele albums are the type of record that sells overwhelmingly to a particular sector. These are the people who own the Titanic and Bodyguard soundtracks and buy maybe 2 or 3 CDs a year. They will also have a good number of Now That’s What… compilations and probably that Rihanna album.

      I’m not saying this is bad music or they are bad people. In fact, from a record busines perspective they are absolutely necessary.

      However, contrary to your point, these ARE the very people who normally buy records. 2 or 3 CDs a year is the average (digital is probably less and more singles). The average buyer has only 50 or maybe 100 albums but there are far more of these people than more eclectic high-volume buyers.

      I think you may be thinking that people who buy a lot of music and eschew the pop hits are the norm. Unfortunately they aren’t and they never were.

      • CBQ

        You are both missing my point.

        I am not saying Adele’s music is not good (although it’s not to my personal taste). I am just so tired of people saying “why can’t there be more artists like Adele, look at all the albums she’s sold”.

        The vast majority of her sales are to people who are not interested in music – which means, i’m afraid, that it’s only about money – plain and simple – it’s a big earning record but to have a big earning record, you need to sell to people who don’t care about your music.

        Is that what you want? Do you really think that’s the answer?

        To work on an album and then sell it to people who treat it as aural wallpaper which is in their home because it’s the only album they’ve ever heard of?

        “Oh let’s get that album by that Adele, everyone’s talking about her, it must be good – stick it in the trolley with the rest of the groceries”

        It’s happened before to a certain extent with Dido – an album’s sales get to a tipping point where people just buy it because so may other people have bought it – you see them all in the charity shops a few years later.

        So maybe I’m wrong and that’s what all artists should aim for but I’m sorry, that’s not art.

        So, once again, stop whining on about how many albums Adele has sold. Michael Jackson sold a few too – and so did Robbie Williams (in the uk at least).

        Adele’s next album – if she ever releases another – will be a big test – if it’s more of the same, then it’s to appeal to all the grocery store non-music buyers.

        If it’s something different and edgy, then I’ll concede she’s an artist.

        Compare the dilemma with David Bowie’s – who went gloabal with “Let’s Dance” and pulled in a whole new “audience” who would shit their pants listening to side two of Low or “Heroes”.

        As an artist, he formed Tin Machine and dumped the lot of them.

        That’s what I’m talking about…

        Adele is no David Bowie I’m afraid…

        In art, sales don’t count – that’s why, if you want to be an artist you can’t expect to make shedloads of cash – if you do though, you’ll know you’ve crossed over into non-art territory

        Which I suppose very few would be able to resist given the choice.

        Anyway, rambling now…


  4. @maddragonmusic

    a number one album selling 48,278 copies? starting to believe this 2012 apocalypse craze.

  5. @scottshuford

    This is sad.

    I think it will come back of sorts, eventually…

  6. Doug Skullery

    I’m a 40 something musician. I haven’t bought an album in years.


    Which would you prefer – a sparkly new, soul-less Gaga effort produced and mixed using all the latest gadgetry and digital wizardry, and marketed with every last drop of corporate slickness – or a scratchy, Floyd / Bowie album from the early 70’s?

    Bye bye album sales. Bye bye music biz.


  7. Ken Brodeur

    There is never a time in history that repeats in aspect of technology. Edison brought to us a means to store musical performance, prior to this is was transcribed on paper in the form of musical notes form pitch and time frames.

    The modern system along with a decline in modern civilization has not allowed the artist the time or money they once enjoyed to create music.

    Mott the Hoople said it best in the 70’s, “the golden age of rock n roll” and that is was and will never be like that again. It was in that wonderful time. Kids these days have not a clue. It saddens me. Yet there will probably be more great periods in music but I dare say, generations may go by before such a thing occurs again.

  8. Tony

    Not to further over-use, an over-used term, but the sales decline is obviously properly attributed to the masses who feel so entitled to download for free, that they don’t even know they feel entitled to do so. That’s how fucking entitled they feel to pirate others art. As for Adelle.. the mass corporate media attention didn’t hurt her sales either. And I wonder how her wistful message ” we could have had it all..” played into their game plan. Yes.. we could have had it all. But not any more – not now. You’re gonna get what you get! So don’t try thinking otherwise.

  9. Alan

    I dont buy albums because I don’t feel connected to the music anymore. When I bought albums in the past it was because I wanted to listen to a particular track and had to buy the whole thing for those one or two tracks. Nowadays I only buy the track I want and not the rest of what I consider filler material. If I can’t get the track I want on its own I just don’t bother.