US Album Sales Down Just 4% On the Year…

If the album is so dead, then why is it still producing billions in revenues annually in the US alone?  Why are artists like Adele and Taylor Swift making millions off the bundled sale, often in one week?

If this format is meaningless to an entire generation, and near-irrelevant in genres like EDM, then why isn’t this format utterly collapsing?

Actually, it is collapsing in places like the UK, it was collapsing in the US, but in 2012, album sales are still staying afloat, at least in America.  According to Nielsen Soundscan stats reported by Billboard, album sales are currently down a mere 4 percent from last year, itself a level period.  Meanwhile, formats like digital albums and vinyl continue to expand, lending credence to the idea that there may be a place for song bundling in our digitally-disrupted future.

  • Save

The more confusing part of this equation comes from paid downloads, which are up 6 percent on the year with roughly 1.2 billion units.  These are one-off, a-la-carte downloads from iTunes and Amazon (not including digital albums), and the lingering question is whether this gain is good enough.  The rather modest uptick comes alongside a screamingly-successful year for Spotify, which now boasts one million subscribers in the US, 5 million worldwide, and 20 million active users.

8 Responses

    • Just another voice in the air

      Not quite. Another 2-3 years worth of data will yield a more meaningful answer. Until then, it’s merely speculation.

    • DavidB

      Maybe not yet, but Sean Parker and Daniel Ek are both on record as saying they believe streaming will eventually replace ‘ownership’. Parker was reported (by Mark Mulligan) at a conference this week as describing the continued sale of music (whether CDs or downloads) as a ‘transition phase anomaly’. If they are right, cannibalisation will eventually reach 100%. Personally, I doubt that it will go quite that far. I use streaming services, including Spotify, but I still buy CDs and downloads of my favourite artists. I like the sense of ownership, of having a ‘collection’, and also I want to still have the music when the streaming services go out of business in a few years time.

  1. hippydog

    1.) People like owning their favorite artists.. (fact is most adults ‘lock in’ their favorite music by the age of 30.) .. IE: the subscription method loses some of its value as a person gets older..

    2.) Many people are sick of having to adopt new technology, and having to ‘re-purchase’ their favorite entertainment. IE: not saying spotify wont be successful, but there is still a significant segment of the population who will not put ‘all-their-eggs-in-one-basket’..

    3.) History repeats itself.. The 45 many times outsold the album.. Unless the Album.. the WHOLE album was really good.. It was only in the CD age that we starting seeing so many albums come out with noticeable “fluff” being added because they knew people would have to buy the whole album anyways. IE: could album sales have held their own (per se), because one of the things that has happened is people are coming out with stronger, better albums?

  2. Red Buttons

    Physical cds are specific to Age demo & genre of music!

    Not many 30yo and under are buying physical discs of any genre!

    Physical still sells well in country and adult music!

  3. R.P.

    You heard it here first: I predict album sales will be up in 2013.