U.S. Record Industry Sees Album Sales Sink to Historic Lows
It’s the worst year (so far) for music sales since the 1991 debut of SoundScan (now Nielsen Music). Album sales, including track-equivalent albums (TEA, whereby 10 track sales equal one album unit) are down 16.9 percent in the first half of this year. But sales figures no longer tell the whole story of the record business.
First, let’s bottom-line those disappearing sales. Album units overall fell 13.6 percent, with 100.3 million total sales. The compact disc continued to crumble, losing 11.6 percent and moving 50 million. Digital album sales fell to 43.8 million, from 53.7 million in the first half of last year. Vinyl sales continued to move up and to the right, growing 11.4 percent, to 6.2 million. New album releases have been most affected by the continued contraction, falling 20.2 percent overall, to 44.1 million units. Catalog albums fell “just” 7.7 percent, to 56.2 million.
Track sales also dropped, to 404.3 million units from 531.6 million units. Current track sales are leading the descent; songs released in the last 18 months saw sales fall nearly 40 percent. Catalog, again, saw a much smaller dip, down 6.4 percent to 236.6 million units.
Listeners streamed 208.9 billion songs (which translates to 139.2 million album units) between January and now (July 6), an increase of 58.7 percent. Of that 208.9 billion, 113.6 billion were audio-only, versus 95.3 billion video streams (defined as a music video view on YouTube, Vevo, Tidal and Apple Music — of which the latter two contribute a very small piece). It’s the first time audio has surpassed lower-paying video streams. – READ MORE