Music Sales Over the Years: 2014 Year-End Soundscan Data

UPDATE: Here’s the 2016 Soundscan data.

There have been lots of updates, additions, and corrections. This page has old info.

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In last year’s wrap up I wrote, “I wouldn’t be surprised if within a few years Billboard starts incorporating streams into their year-end charts somehow.” In fact, they started doing it in November. Which proves that actual sales of albums are becoming irrelevant as more and more people turn to streaming instead of purchasing.

Personally, I still like physical media. I found a dope old school integrated amplifier for $20 at a garage sale this summer and after some minor repairs it’s powering my main system that I’ve been putting together over the years. I upgraded the cartridge on my turntable and I’ve finally got a setup I’m pretty happy with. I wish new vinyl sounded better, but I’ve been having fine luck in the used bins. It’s a great time to buy used CDs too. Neil Young might be crazy and crotchedly (and Pono was doomed from the start) but he’s right about the difference between lossy sound files and high fidelity recordings: the average listener might not be able to consciously hear the difference, but you can certainly FEEL it.

That said, my favorite album of the year is one that I downloaded for 99 cents via the Microsoft Music Deals app: Taylor Swift’s 1989. Even as crappy old MP3s it’s still totally infectious. I also just ordered it on vinyl, allegedly for my 8 year old who got his own record player from Santa. Other highlights for me this year were Run the Jewels 2, the CSNY 1974 box, Spoon’s They Want My Soul, Tweedy’s Sukierae (which I wasn’t really expecting to like as much as I do), Jenny Lewis’ The Voyager, and Conor Oberst’s Upside Down Mountain. And I was super excited that Tim Warren and Crypt Records resurrected Back from the Grave for Volume 9 of the ultimate sixties punk compilation series 18 years after the release of Volume 8.

So anyway, here’s the Soundscan data for 2014 compared to as much prior history as I could scrape off the internet. If you can help me fill in any gaps (especially 1991-1995, the early Soundscan era), I would certainly appreciate it.

Total U.S. Album sales (physical + digital in millions)

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2014: 257 million
2013: 289.41 million
2012: 315.96 million
2011: 330.57 million
2010: 326.15 million
2009: 373.9 million
2008: 428.4 million
2007: 500.5 million
2006: 542.4 588.2 million [Corrected 10/30/2017. -ed.]
2005: 618.9 million
2004: 667 million
2003: 687 million
2002: 681 million
2001: 763 million
2000: 785 million
1999: 754.8 million
1998: 711 million
1997: 651.8 million
1996: 616.6 million

Compact Discs

2014: 140.9 million
2013: 165.4 million
2012: 193.4 million
2011: 223.5 million
2010: 239.9 million
2009: 294.9 million
2008: 360.6 million
2007: 449.2 million
2006: 553.4 million
2005: 598.9 million
2004: 651.1 million
2003: 635.8 million
2002: 649.5 million
2001: 712.0 million
2000: 730.0 million
1999: 648.1 million
1998: ~578 million*
1997: 504.6 million
1996: 448.4 million
1995: 368 million

Digital Albums

2014: 106.5 million
2013: 117.58 million
2012: 117.68 million
2011: 103.1 million
2010: 86.3 million
2009: 76.4 million
2008: 65.8 million
2007: 50 million
2006: 16.2 million
2005: 5.5 million

Vinyl albums

2014: 9.2 million
2013: 6.1 million
2012: 4.55 million
2011: 3.9 million
2010: 2.8 million
2009: 2.5 million
2008: 1,877,000
2007: 990,000
2006: 858,000
2005: 857,000
2004: 1,187,000
2003: 1,404,000
2002: 1,339,000
2001: 1,246,000
2000: 1,533,000
1999: 1,405,000
1998: 1,376,000
1997: 1,092,000
1996: 1,145,000
1995: 794,000
1994: 625,000

Cassette albums

2009: 34,000

2007: 274,000

2004: 8.6 million

2002: 29.8 million
2001: 49.4 million
2000: 77.2 million
1999: 105.5 million
1998: ~130.8 million
1997: 146 million
1996: 166.7 million

Digital tracks

Digital Track Sales (in millions)

2014: 1.1 billion
2013: 1.26 billion
2012: 1.336 billion
2011: 1.27 billion
2010: 1.17 billion
2009: 1.16 billion
2008: 1.07 billion
2007: 844.1 million
2006: 582 million
2005: 353 million
2004: 141 million
2003: 19.2 million (SoundScan monitored them only during the year’s second half)

Track equivalent albums (where 10 track downloads equal one album)

2014: 367.3 million
2013: 415.3 million
2012: 449.5 million
2011: 457.7 million
2010: 443.4 million
2009: 489.8 million
2008: 535.4 million
2007: 585 million
2006: 646.3 million
2005: 654.1 million
2004: 680.7 million

Streams *

2014: 164 billion
2013: 118.1 billion
2012: ~89.5 billion (calculated on reports that 2013 was up 32%)

  • Non-interactive digital services like Pandora and Sirius XM are not included in the streams tracked by Nielsen Music.

Streaming equivalent albums (SEA)

2014: 109.3 million (1,500 streams equal one album)
2013: 53 million units (2,000 streams equal one album)

  • “The industry calculates that a stream equivalent album (SEA) equals 1,500 streams. (That’s an average payout of half a cent per stream, totaling $7.50. In 2013, the average payout per stream was $.0.00375, thus in that year 2,000 streams equaled one SEA unit.)” – Ed Christman.

Total Album + TEA + SEA

2014: 476.5 million
2013: 486.1 million

Sources: Nielsen Music, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, USA Today, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, USA Today, Computer World, New York Times, Hollywood Reporter, CTV, BBC, WSJ, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Pitchfork, Narm.