Over 3 months ago, Billboard released their mid-year report on the current state of the music industry, which depicted some very bleak numbers. Total physical album sales were down by 14.9%, and digital sales were marginally better, only losing 11.6%. There were two major beacons of hope, however, the first being audio streaming, which had risen 50.1%. This comes as no surprise, as the amount of popularity Spotify has gotten in the past year has been absolutely insane, to say the least. The other beacon we have is vinyl sales, which were up 40.4%! The growing popularity of record store day, and the revival of vinyl as a whole has been trending for awhile, though, so this does not come as surprise either. Although this isn’t much to go on, it does provide some hope for making money in the music industry, right? And besides, things can only get better, right??
Nope. We’ve just passed the third quarter, and things are looking just as bad, somehow. Digital album sales have fallen another 11.5% and overall album sales are down 14.4%. Bad news, but once again we find that vinyl is on the rise, at 47.5% up from last year.
It’s cool to see that vinyl is coming back strong as it’s such a cool format, however, this is not the music industry’s saving grace. Although vinyl sales are making huge increases every day, it only makes up 0.2% of total album sales. The number is still a whopping 6 million units, but it still pales in comparison to the 227 million of total albums. It makes sense, not a lot of people these days even own a turntable anymore, and audiophile-grade stereos can cost more than a new car in most cases. Although, it is cool to dream of a day where vinyl will take up even 1% of the market.
So, not many formats are reeling in big sales this year, but maybe big pop artists are still racking up huge numbers? Actually, no. The way it’s looking right now, no artist will make it to platinum this year, the first time this has ever happened. Topping the charts this year is Beyonce’s self-titled album at 776,000 units, followed by Lorde’s Pure Heroine at 754,000 units, but those actually came out last year. The closest thing to them that came out this year is in the no. 4 spot, and it’s Eric Church’s Outsiders at 722,000 units. These are all pop artists, and even they’re not going to make it to 1 million
It’s also interesting to note that indie record labels have a bigger market share. Indie share is up to 13.7% from 12.3%, and if you include larger labels distributed by big companies the share shoots up to 35%.
This isn’t the end of the world for the music industry. While it’s true that money is rapidly diminishing due to file sharing, streaming is gaining a huge amount of momentum, and it can be inferred that this is where the music industry will be going. Not only are services like Spotify extremely profitable, but it’s free (if you don’t mind ads), giving it a lot of appeal to rival that of file sharing. Not only that, but on top of having a very accessible and very nice method of listening to music in spotify, but we also have a growing culture of people who are rejecting CDs and mp3 files altogether. While they may not be the most profitable of demographics to cater to, they are passionate about their music. So, while things may look grim at first glance, don’t be fooled. The music industry may never be the giant that it once was, but technology has caused a huge change. Just because artists will never make millions on millions anymore, doesn’t mean the industry is dead, it just means music is heading in a new direction
You can check out the billboard article for the third-quarter here
And here's the .pdf for the mid-year stats