2016 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Consumption

2016 was a hell of a year, huh?

Music sales continued to fall, streaming continued to climb. Apple Music still kinda sucks. Spotify is just alright. Not a lot of excitement around new album releases. For me at least. I didn’t get into too much new stuff this year. The new release I was most excited by was the Monkees’ Good Times and seeing Mickey and Peter on their 50th anniversary tour was a thrill; I even bought a replica of the poncho from the “Randy Scouse Git” video! Other albums I enjoyed were new ones by Andrew Bird, Robbie Fulks, Wilco, the Handsome Family, Regina Spektor, and Two Cow Garage. I didn’t hear about Car Seat Headrest until they started showing up on everybody’s year-end lists, but I’m liking what I’ve heard of that, too.

I’m bummed about Prince and Leonard Cohen dying, regretting having blown multiple opportunities to see them in concert. George Michael, Sharon Jones, George Martin, Scotty Moore, David Bowie, Bernie Worrell, Glenn Frey, Leon Russell, Paul Kantner, Merle Haggard, Maurice White, Vanity, Phife Dawg, Carrie Fisher, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, Jerry Heller, Fidel Castro, Nancy Reagan, Abe Vigoda, Garry Marshall, Garry Shandling, Grizzly Adams, Mrs. Brady, Schneider, Father Mulcahy, Big Ang… A lot of people died in 2016. A lot more are going to die in 2017. The Baby Boomers are in their 70s now. We can expect classic rockers to start dropping like flies. Prepare yourself. Let people know you care about them when you have the chance.

Until then, let’s look at the data from Nielsen Music via Billboard

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

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2016: 200.54 million
2015: 241.39 million
2014: 257.02 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 million
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
1995: 616.4 million (I’ve heard the figure is 616,957,000)
1994: 614.7 million (I’ve heard the figure is 615,266,000)
1993: ~573 million (1994 was 7.4% increase over 1993)

Compact Discs

Compact Disc Sales (in millions)

2016: 104.8 million
2015: 125.6 million
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

Digital Album Sales (in millions)

2016: ~82.2 million
2015: 103.33 million
2014: 106.47 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

Vinyl Album Sales (in millions)

2016: 13.1 million
2015: 11.92 million
2014: 9.19 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


Digital track sales

Digital Track Sales (in millions)

2016: 723.68 million
2015: 964.76 million
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 + album sales)

TEA plus Album Sales (in millions)

2016: ~272.91 million
2015: 337.97 million
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

Song Streams *

Song Streams (in billions)

2016: 431.74 billion (251.86 billion were audio-only)
2015: 317.2 billion (144.9 billion were audio-only)
2014: 164.5 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)

SEA (in millions)

2016: 287.8 million (1,500 song streams equal one album)
2015: 211.5 million (1,500 song streams equal one album)
2014: 109.7 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 Consumption Units (Album Sales + TEA + SEA)

Total Album Consumption Units (in millions)

2016: 560.7 million
2015: 549.35 million
2014: 476.93 million
2013: 486.1 million

Album Consumption Historical Comparison *

Album Consumption Historical Comparison

2016: 560.7 million
2015: 549.35 million
2014: 476.93 million
2013: 486.1 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

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
1995: 616.4 million
1994: 614.7 million
1993: ~573 million

* I made this one up to try to compare the different ways people have accessed music since the beginning of the Soundscan era. From 1993 to 2003, we just use album sales. From 2004 to 2012, we use album sales + TEA to account for track downloads. From 2013 to present, we use album sales + TEA + SEA. This gives a somewhat relative comparison to how much music people are “consuming” over the years, and it doesn’t look nearly as dreary as comparing actual album sales…

Sources: Billboard, New York Times, Billboard, Billboard, 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, Billboard.

We’ve been doing this for a while. See our previous annual sales wrap-ups: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.

7 thoughts on “2016 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Consumption”

  1. Fascinating. And it mirrors my own purchasing history too.
    There are some fantastic deals on CDs currently, but I only consider that format to fill in holes in artist catalogues, provided that my purchase amount is >$8. The only “new” release that I purchased on compact disc for 2016 was that Jeff Buckley release of the CBS demos, and that was with a Best Buy Rewards Zone coupon. Talk about a nostalgia trip…
    Vinyl is a different beast, one that can get stupid pricey if you don’t do well with restraint.
    As a result, I limit the selections to what I deem as “vinyl worthy.” Titles that are arranged nicely for the format (long players spread over two discs) and fill in the missing holes of my collection. There is a heavy vetting process for this format, so most of the titles are ones that I’m familiar with. I know that sucks for new artists and I feel bad for them. I hope they understand that economic constraints and my own previous history with prior formats have made for a finicky purchase history.
    Off topic: why isn’t Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” on vinyl? Is this some kind of Tidal bullshit?

  2. I still love picking up used CDs especially now that you can find them so cheap. I’ll always love flipping through stacks of used records. Even if I wanted to spend the money on new vinyl, I have a great mistrust of reissues, so I am always on the lookout for good original pressings.

    That said, I recently picked up the reissue of Sign o’ the Times, which I didn’t have previously, but I haven’t even cracked the seal yet. It sure looks pretty though! Not as pretty as my mint original issue of Purple Rain though (which I picked up for $6.99 shortly before he died!).

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