Tag Archives: sales

The Money in Music

In her introduction to the IFPI annual Global Music Report, which covers 2019, IFPI chief executive Francis Moore writes, “. . .it was originally drafted prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic.” Presumably there is a bit of an acknowledgement on Ms. Moore’s part that while the 2019 stats are past, they are not necessarily prologue: who knows what the future will bring?

While some of the stats aren’t particularly surprising, as in, predicated on consumption in the forms of streaming, downloads, and physical formats, Taylor Swift is the #1 IFPI Global Recording Artist of 2019, there are some numbers that are a bit strange. For example, in 2019 synchronization revenue—which is that derived from the use of music in advertising, film, games, and TV—was up 5.8%, accounting for 2.4% of all revenue in 2019, or $500,000,000 (U.S.). Ten years ago this metric didn’t even exist (or the amount of money was microscopic to measure).

What is someone more unusual, however, is that of the 10 on that list of the tops, there are two that no longer exist as they were known to be when they gained the traction necessary to make them on the top-10 list: Queen (#5)—and there is a picture of the band including Freddie Mercury not Adam Lambert—and the Beatles #10). I wonder how Ariana Grande (#6) feels about being nudged out. Much of the strength for Queen and the Beatles is probably predicated on their performance in the global top albums, where Bohemian Rhapsody was #6 and Abbey Road #10.

The #1 global album in 2019? A greatest hits album by Arashi, a Japanese boy band, 5×20 All the BEST!! 1999-2019. One can only think that in order to be a boy band with that longevity there were musician changes like a revolving door.

(It is worth noting that there is something to be said for the power of boy bands. Number 3 on the global top 10 album list is Map of the Soul: Persona, by BTS, the Korean boy band. That album sold 2.5-million units. Arashi sold significantly more, 3.3-million. And what was in the middle? Taylor Swift’s Lover, at 3.2-million.)

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2019 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Streams

Don’t believe the hype. You might hear that “album consumption” grew 15% but that’s an arbitrary measurement made up by the industry and tweaked every other year to make business look healthy. The indisputable fact is that people are purchasing fewer albums than ever, and on top of that, nobody’s even measuring how many albums people are actually listening to.

Yes, they track streams. And streams are up. They track revenue, and that’s up too…at least for labels. (Ask an artist how revenues from their recordings are doing.)

But albums? Come on. Does anybody really believe that listening to the single ten times (or 1,250 times? or even 3,750 times?) is an equivalent experience to listening to the album? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe albums are just a marketing container to wrap around an artist’s current promotional cycle. Maybe it’s all about the singles and the licensing and the merch and the tour. Maybe I’m totally full of shit. But what’s even more full of shit is the idea that you can calculate “album consumption” with some convoluted formula. Who cares? Just look at the sales and streams.

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

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2019: 112.75 million
2018: 141 million
2017: 169.15 million
2016: 205.5 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: 588.2 million
2005: 618.9 million
2004: 666.7 million
2003: 667.9 million
2002: 693.1 million
2001: 762.8 million
2000: 785 million
1999: 754.8 million
1998: 712.5 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 2019 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Streams

2018 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Streams

I’d been holding off on releasing this post until Billboard published Ed Christman’s year-end wrap-up online, but it looks like it’s going to be print-only. So go out and buy the magazine if you want Ed’s perspective on these numbers.

For 2018 Billboard changed the way it calculates streaming equivalent albums. From 2014 through 2017 they counted 1,500 streams as equal to one “album consumption unit.” The idea was that the average payout per stream was $0.005 so 1,500 of those added up to $7.50, i.e., the wholesale price of an album.

This year they’re complicating things by separating paid from ad-supported streaming, with paid subscription audio streams equating 1,250 streams to 1 album unit and ad-supported equating 3,750 streams to 1 album. So it makes it difficult to compare 2018 to the years before…

This also makes you wonder about how much revenue streaming is truly generating. Does anybody really believe that YouTube pays out $7.50 for 3,750 streams of a song? I don’t.

So I’m no longer reporting total music “consumption.” It’s a bullshit metric that doesn’t really mean anything. The industry can manipulate the numbers to tell whatever story they want to tell. Sales and streams, that’s all we really know.

Another complicating factor is that 2018 was a 53-week year, so when Billboard shows volume comparisons to the previous year they use a corresponding 53-week period. This makes me a little nervous about some of the old data we’ve reported, since we sometimes have used the prior year’s numbers. We continue to update this as new information becomes available throughout the year as we try to fill in any holes or correct any mistakes, so if you see any inaccuracies or anything weird please don’t hesitate to let us know.

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

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2018: 141 million
2017: 169.15 million
2016: 205.5 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: 588.2 million
2005: 618.9 million
2004: 666.7 million
2003: 667.9 million
2002: 693.1 million
2001: 762.8 million
2000: 785 million
1999: 754.8 million
1998: 712.5 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 2018 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Streams

The Importance of Artifact

The reports of the existence of the “last” Blockbuster store in Bend, Oregon, is treated as though here is something that is completely quaint and old-timey: “Yes, son, way back when we used to go to a store and rent movies on discs. And sometimes we actually bought them!”

And on the subject of buying discs, while Best Buy, which had been the #1 music retailer, had announced that it was going to stop selling CDs, it has modified that. It will continue to but with a greatly minimized selection; there will probably be more selection of Keurig coffees.

In this era of downloading and streaming, the notion of buying physical artifacts like discs is becoming increasingly unthinkable.

While vinyl discs are making something of a comeback, you rarely hear any arguments about the fidelity of the sound as being a reason for this occurrence. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that many of the purchasers of vinyl probably have some crappy Crosley record player upon which the latest novelty is played. Sure, there are audiophiles who have never given up the grooves, but they’re becoming like philatelists in the age of email, which has then given way to texting.

But a question that seems to go unasked is who benefits from this? And I would argue that it is the purveyors of the digitally based music (or video) products.

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2017 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Consumption

So it looks like fewer and fewer people care about owning their music. This is the first year that I didn’t buy a single new release on compact disc (although I picked up a few deluxe reissues on CD). I bought a bunch of vinyl including Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy, the Mountain Goats’ Goths, Jason Isbell’s The Nashville Sound, Neil Young’s Hitchhiker, and the Replacements’ Live at Maxwell’s.

But most of the new stuff I listened to this year was streamed including tons of miscellaneous singles as well as new albums by Spoon, Conor Oberst, Aimee Mann, Strand of Oaks, Diet Cig, Lorde, Micah Schnabel, Tristen, Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile, St. Vincent, Last Leaves, Taylor Swift, and my absolute favorite album of the year: Feel Your Feelings, Fool by the Regrettes. I’ll pick that stuff up on vinyl if I see a deal, but I’m in no hurry. Patience is a virtue, after all.

I’m apparently not alone. Music sales are down down down. But streaming is way up and if you accept the industry’s argument that 1,500 streams is equivalent to one album sale then things are about the same as they were in the early- to mid-90s, before the brief, turn-of-the-century bubble. So maybe all’s well. Who knows?

Seems like only yesterday that we were all celebrating the certain death of the major label system, but just like everything else about the early internet age, we were overly optimistic and grossly naive about the resilience of corporate America. So it goes. Anyway, here’s the data…

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

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2017: 169.15 million
2016: 205.5 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: 588.2 million
2005: 618.9 million
2004: 666.7 million
2003: 667.9 million
2002: 693.1 million
2001: 762.8 million
2000: 785 million
1999: 754.8 million
1998: 712.5 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 2017 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Consumption

Taylor breaks a million for the fourth time

Three years ago this month, we reminded everybody that Selling a Million Albums in a Week is a Big Deal after Taylor Swift released 1989 and sold 1.287 million. At that time only 18 other albums had hit that mark since Soundscan began tracking sales in 1991.

Before Swift’s new album, Reputation, sold 1.216 million last week, only one more album had sold more than a million: Adele’s 25. And 25 crushed all sales records, selling 3.378 million copies in its debut week, 1.112 million in its second week, and 1.157 million in its fifth (Christmas). Which was historically bonkers. Since then, nobody’s come close and nobody probably ever will.

But 1.216 million is still a lot of albums. And those are sales. In just the United States. 709,000 digital albums and 507,000 CDs (no vinyl yet). As Billboard points out, that’s the “10th-largest sales week for any album since Nielsen Music began electronically tracking sales.” In fact, it sold 1.05 million copies in the first four days. That is a dedicated fanbase.

If you factor in streaming and track downloads, it moved 1.238 million equivalent album units (not much more because she’s holding it off streaming services for now).

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Recorded music revenue settling back into pre-90s levels

It certainly seems like the recorded music industry has been in decline. And compared to the peak in 1999 it has been. But if you take a longer view of history you can see that the 1990s were a weird blip, fueled by shiny new compact disc sales.

This short-term memory is understandable because Soundscan only began gathering real sales data in 1991. The RIAA, on the other hand, has collected shipment data since the early 1970s.

Throughout most of the 1980s, annual recorded music revenue hovered around $5 billion, and most of the seventies had revenue less than $4 billion, as you can see in the interactive chart below. Adjusted for inflation, that’s right around where we’ve been for the past ten years or so. The 90s were an anomaly.

Today the RIAA announced that the 2016 U.S. recorded music shipments were valued at $7.65 billion, which is up 11.4% over 2015. So good news. But if the industry thinks it’s ever going to reach 90s/CD-era levels again, they’re dreaming.

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2016 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Consumption

UPDATE: Here’s the 2017 Soundscan data.There have been lots of updates, additions, and corrections. This page has old info.Get the latest and greatest!

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: 588.2 million
2005: 618.9 million
2004: 666.7 million
2003: 667.9 million
2002: 693.1 million
2001: 762.8 million
2000: 785 million
1999: 754.8 million
1998: 712.5 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 2016 Soundscan Data: Total Music Sales and Consumption

Yes, People Still Buy Discs. Millions of Them.

In March 1958 Elvis’ Golden Records album was released.

“Heartbreak Hotel.”

“Love Me Tender.”

“Don’t Be Cruel.”

“All Shook Up.”

Those and other tracks are on the disc.

And it, itself, became a Gold Record in 1961. (It eventually racked up status as 6X Platinum, which sounds like a score on a pinball machine.)

But let’s face it: this first volume of complied Gold Records has a horribly weak name.

When volume two was released in November 1959 it was unimaginatively titled Elvis’ Gold Records—Volume Two, but it gained a name that is arguably one of the best album titles of all time: 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong.  (What’s amusing about volume two is that the cuts it contains are not the audio icons that many of those on volume one have become, so those 50,000,000 fans were not quite as right as the ones the year earlier.)

Elvis comes to mind because of Garth Brooks.

Continue reading Yes, People Still Buy Discs. Millions of Them.

“Uptown Funk” is certified Diamond with 11 million units

You might have seen the news that “Uptown Funk” has been certified Diamond by the RIAA, which means that it achieved 10 million sales. Billboard says that “Uptown Funk” has sold over 12,422,016 in downloads and 938,694,569 audio streams in the U.S.” and that the video “has streamed over 1.9 billion times.”

The RIAA’s certification requirements state that units are defined as follows:
• Each permanent digital download counts as 1 Unit for certification purposes.
• 150 on-demand audio and/or video streams will count as 1 Unit for certification purposes. [Note: this contradicts Billboard saying “100 streams counting as one certifiable unit.”]

But if those numbers are accurate, that would add up to 31,346,646.46 certifiable units. And the RIAA only has 11 million units certified for “Uptown Funk.” So who knows? Math is hard.

This is only the thirteenth Diamond single since the RIAA established the certification in 1999. The first single to be certified Diamond was Elton John’s Princess Diana tribute “Candle In The Wind 1997” and it took almost 16 years for the next one: Bieber and Luda’s “Baby.” If you look at the rest of the list there’s certainly plenty of garbage, but there are also some jams.

1. Elton John – “Candle In The Wind 1997 / Something.You Look Tonight” (October 9, 1997)
2. Justin Bieber – “Baby (Feat. Ludacris)” (May 9, 2013)
3. Eminem – “Love The Way You Lie (Feat. Rihanna)” (May 9, 2013)
4. Eminem – “Not Afraid” (June 10, 2014)
5. Lady Gaga – “Bad Romance” (May 29, 2015)
6. Imagine Dragons – “Radioactive” (July 6, 2015)
7. Katy Perry – “Dark Horse” (October 29, 2015)
8. Katy Perry – “Firework” (October 29, 2015)
9. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – “Thrift Shop (Feat. Wanz)” (November 19, 2015)
10. Lady Gaga – “Poker Face” (November 30, 2015)
11. Florida Georgia Line – “Cruise” (April 1, 2016)
12. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe” (September 28, 2016)
13. Mark Ronson – “Uptown Funk Feat. Bruno Mars” (October 18, 2016)

Continue reading “Uptown Funk” is certified Diamond with 11 million units