Tag Archives: charts

No Intro

I’ll be brief.

I have to be.

Otherwise you’ll stop reading. Perhaps you already have.

A doctoral student at The Ohio State University, Hubert Léveillé Gauvin, has done a study (pdf, press release) on 303 U.S. top-10 singles from 1986 to 2015. He looked at five parameters: number of words in title, main tempo, time before the voice enters, time before the title is mentioned, and self-focus in lyrical content.

Léveillé Gauvin has determined that popular songs today get right to the point. Titles are short. And they’re mentioned in the song post-haste.

What’s more, whereas musical intros that were part and parcel of songs on the Big ’80s—which, on average, were greater than 20 seconds in duration—are gone. Now it’s a five-second intro and the lyrics begin.

And the tempo has accelerated, too, by about eight percent.

It seems music streaming is one of the causes.

As Léveillé Gauvin told a writer for OSU, “It’s survival-of-the-fittest: Songs that manage to grab and sustain listeners’ attention get played and others get skipped. There’s always another song. If people can skip so easily and at no cost, you have to do something to grab their attention.”

This has taken about 45 seconds to read.

Cool Still Rules: Kendrick Kicks Ed in the Teeth to Take No. 1

Video: Kendrick Lamar – “HUMBLE.”

Kendrick Lamar – HUMBLE.

Ladies and gentlemen of the United States, I am pleased to announce we have a new number one record. After sitting at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart for 12 of the year’s 18 weeks, that doughy English dweeb Ed Sheeran is finally knocked out. And who better to do the deed than righteous rapper Kendrick Lamar?

Lamar’s “HUMBLE.” is only the fifth number one record of 2017. Back in February I was telling Johnny Loftus about how I’m never exposed to the Top 40 anymore unless I make a conscious effort to seek it out. And when I do, I’m often surprised by how freaky and interesting popular music has gotten. Many big hits are more “experimental” sounding than a lot of stuff being released on our beloved indie labels. We thought we should at least cover the singles that reached the top of the chart, or as Johnny called it: “the most main of mainstreams.” But then dopey old Sheeran just stayed at No. 1, week after week after week. And come on. “Shape of You” is nothing to write home about. It’s so flaccid and predictable it makes John Mayer’s “Your Body Is A Wonderland” sound substantial. So good riddance. Finally.

And “HUMBLE.” is a jam! A sparse one-finger piano riff drives the beat and Lamar’s rhyming is effortless as always. It’s great that an artist as cool as Kendrick Lamar can reach number one on the pop singles chart. Lots of grumpy old dudes dismiss current music entirely, myself included. That’s a mistake. There’s always good new stuff being released and sometimes the most popular song is also the best song. “Sit down, lil bitch. Be humble.” That’s solid advice that we should all be listening to these days. Reminds me of the great Rookie essay by Charles Aaron where he shares some tips for how not to be a jerk; it boils down to: Fall back…listen…question. That’s an important lesson that can take a lifetime to master. I’m still working on it.

Continue reading Cool Still Rules: Kendrick Kicks Ed in the Teeth to Take No. 1

2015 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Consumption

UPDATE: Here’s the 2016 Soundscan data.

Last year Soundscan was rebranded as Nielsen Music. Whatever, I’m still going to call it Soundscan. I’m a fogey like that.

2015 was the year that streaming really took off. Apple finally got into it after acquiring Beats, which had acquired my beloved MOG. Apple Music still kinda sucks, but I renewed my subscription after my three month free preview ran out. I’ve gotten my money’s worth by downloading all those Velvet Underground box sets and a bunch of other stuff. Some of it I probably would have bought, some of it I probably wouldn’t have.

My favorite albums of the year were Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear, and Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell. I also liked Craig Finn’s Faith In the Future, Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free, Kacey Musgraves’ Pageant Material, the Mountain Goats’ Beat the Champ, Wilco’s Star Wars, and I’m happy the Libertines got their shit together enough to pull off Anthems for Doomed Youth.

But the biggest story of 2015 was Adele who proved that there are still a bunch of people out there who are willing to pay for an album. Billboard’s Ed Christman points out, “By herself, Adele accounted for three percent of total album sales in the U.S.” Which is insane. 25 sold 7.44 million copies. That would have been bonkers in any year, but it’s especially crazy in these days of cultural fragmentation.

Anyway, here’s the data…

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

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

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)

Continue reading 2015 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Consumption

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

UPDATE: Here’s the 2016 Soundscan data.

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.

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

Music Industry Gives Up on Albums

Last night Billboard announced some big changes to the way it calculates its Billboard 200 album chart, incorporating streams and individual track sales. Who cares, right? I do.

Billboard has been charting albums since 1945 under many different names and formulas, but since May 1991 it’s been based on album sales as reported by Soundscan. They used to exclude “catalog” albums from the chart, which seemed ridiculous to me around the time of Michael Jackson’s death when his old albums were selling better than any current releases. I campaigned hard to have these included in the Billboard 200, because I believed the main album chart should reflect which albums people are actually purchasing. That’s what it’s all about: the top selling albums.

Continue reading Music Industry Gives Up on Albums

Overall Album Sales Watch: New Low of 4.05 Million

Bill boredI usually keep an eye on Billboard‘s Chart Beat, but I must have missed it a few weeks ago because the week ending July 13 set a new record for the fewest overall album sales with just 4.05 million. Things are rough for the album:

Weekly album sales volume has been below 5 million for the past 12 consecutive weeks. The 5 million mark has only been surpassed in five weeks this year. To compare, a year ago at this point, there were 21 weeks where sales were above 5 million. Weekly volume didn’t fall below 5 million in the SoundScan era until 2010, when, in the week ending May 30, album sales dropped to 4.98 million.

We remember that.

Sales have bounced back a little in the weeks following the new record low, but now they have gone back down to 4.1 million for the week ending August 17. I wonder if 2014 will see them dip below 4 million for the first time ever.

Do streaming services offer “album play” data? Not that anybody streams entire albums, but if they do I suppose it should be counted. Or maybe not.

Music Sales Over the Years: 2013 Year-End Soundscan Data

UPDATE: Here’s the 2016 Soundscan data.

I love it when Billboard releases the year-end Soundscan data. It’s fascinating to see how people are spending their money on music. I wouldn’t be surprised if within a few years Billboard starts incorporating streams into their year-end charts somehow. Although — come to think of it — I’m not sure whether or not the streaming services have a way of tracking “album streams,” or if they even care. I would imagine it’s a miniscule number anyway without much relevance to anything.

I still listen to albums sometimes, but I spend most of my day with iTunes shuffling a byzantine custom playlist that depends on a song’s ranking, when it was last played, etc. It’s convoluted but it works for me and makes sure that songs I love don’t fall off my radar completely. I’ve dipped into streaming a bit but it doesn’t totally appeal to my sense of hoarding. Yet.

My favorite albums of 2013 were Phosphorescent’s Muchaho and Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City. I also totally obsessed over Father John Misty’s Fear Fun (2012).

Anyway, here’s the Soundscan data for 2013 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.

Continue reading Music Sales Over the Years: 2013 Year-End Soundscan Data

Album Sales Over the Years: 2012 Year-End Soundscan Data

UPDATE: Here’s the 2016 Soundscan data.

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums in millions)

Hurray! Billboard has published the 2012 Soundscan numbers! I love this data and I’ve been collecting it for years, looking up back issues of Billboard and scouring old news reports. It’s fascinating to see how the numbers evolve over time as people’s music purchasing habits change.

Soundscan has been counting music sales since 1991, and I’d love to be able to fill in some of the missing data, especially total album sales from 1991-1995 and vinyl sales prior to 2006. So if you can hook a brother up, let me know. I may also add in more charts because Google makes it fairly easy and they look kinda pretty. Until then, dig into the data.

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

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

Compact Discs

2012: 193.73 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

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

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)

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)

2012: 449.6 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

Sources: 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.

* – Indicates that this number was calculated using officially published numbers.

How does Adele keep finding new fans?

Are you one of the almost six million people who’ve bought Adele’s 21? If not, there’s no real hurry. You don’t have to rush into the decision. Adele has somehow managed to find at least 100,000 new people to buy her album every week for 32 (non-consecutive) weeks now.

At the end of last year, Billboard ran a story about the 14 albums that have notched at least 30 weeks of 100,000-plus sales since 1991:

• Alanis Morissette, “Jagged Little Pill” – 64 (1995-1997)
• Britney Spears, “…Baby One More Time” – 50 (1999-2000)
• Creed, “Human Clay” – 49 (1999-2001)
• Celine Dion, “Falling Into You” – 43 (1996-1997)
• Shania Twain, “Come on Over” – 42 (1997-2000)
• Hootie & the Blowfish, “Cracked Rear View” – 40 (1995-1996)
• Santana, “Supernatural” – 39 (1999-2000)
• Backstreet Boys, “Millennium” – 34 (1999-2000)
• Usher, “Confessions” – 33 (2004-2005)
• Spice Girls, “Spice” – 32 (1997-1998)
• Billy Ray Cyrus, “Some Gave All” – 31 (1992-1993)
• NSYNC, “No Strings Attached” – 31 (2000-2001)
• Kid Rock, “Devil Without a Cause” – 30 (1999-2000)
• Adele, “21” – 30 (to date) (2011-2012)

That was two weeks ago, and Adele sold 124,000 copies this week and 144,000 copies the week before. So she’s at 32 weeks now, which ties the Spice Girls. If she can find 100,000 new buyers for two more weeks she’ll pass Usher and have the most weeks of 100,000-plus sales since 2001. I hope she does it.

But I don’t get how she’s still managing to reach new people. By now, even Appalachian hermits and the Amish know all the words to “Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You.” Is it just that most people are happy to download the singles? (“Rolling” and “Someone” sold 5.81 million and 3.75 million downloads in 2011, respectively.) There’s a new single storming up the charts again, so maybe this one will tip the remaining holdouts over the edge. Maybe this song will convince another huge batch of people that perhaps it’s time to just buy the whole damn album.

Video: Adele – Set Fire To The Rain (Live)

Noel Gallagher Debuts at #1, Liam Open to Reunion

Noel Gallagher’s first solo effort debuted at #1 in Great Britain, moving 122,000 units in its first week. While a nice feather in Noel’s cap and a stick in the beady ey of his brother (who debuted at #3), it’s unlikely to rival the sales of Oasis’ catalog but this is a different time, isn’t it?

Speaking of…brother Liam Gallagher has said he’d be open to a reunion to mark the 20th anniversary of the band’s chart topper What’s the Story Morning Glory.

Liam told Rolling Stone, “In 2015, if we can put our shit aside, we can tour and play the album in its entirety for the 20th anniversary,” he says. “I’d be up for that, if it’s on our terms. There’s got to be two-way respect.”

It appears Noel still knows the songs since he played nine Oasis tunes in his live debut. Maybe the hoopla around the Stone Roses has got the old boy thinking…

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds North America Tour Dates:
November 7 & 8 @ Toronto, ON @ Massey Hall
November 11 @ Philadelphia, PA @ Academy of Music
November 12 @ Boston, MA @ Wang Theatre
November 14 & 15 @ New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre
November 17 & 18 @ Los Angeles, CA @ Royce Hall
November 19 @ San Francisco, CA @ Orpheum Theatre