Two-thirds of album sales below Top 200

The Melvins - The Bride Screamed MurderHere’s an interesting statistic from Paul Grein from Yahoo Chart Watch:

The albums on The Billboard 200 this week accounted for 1,682,000 in sales. […] Sales of all “current” albums (those charted and those that didn’t chart) totalled 2,734,000 this week. The other 2,429,000 albums sold this week were catalog. (Those two figures add up to 5,163,000.)

It’s interesting enough that catalog sales represent almost half of total sales for the week. But even more fascinating is what a small percentage of total album sales the Top 200 represents: only about one-third of all album sales for the week. Two-thirds of the week’s album sales are outside of the Top 200.

Even looking at the “current” releases, that leaves 1.1 million current albums outside of the Top 200, or about two-fifths of total sales of current music. That’s a big chunk of low-sellers!

Ever wonder how many albums you have to sell to get on the Billboard 200 chart? For once, we know for sure: 2,809. That number was revealed in an article congratulating the Melvins on cracking “the U.S. pop album chart for the first time in its 26-year career.” Therefore we know that 3,481,000 of the albums sales racked up last week were for albums that sold fewer than 2,809 copies.

That’s the definition of the Long Tail, isn’t it?

The Melvins: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

7 thoughts on “Two-thirds of album sales below Top 200”

  1. I’d be interested in seeing some numbers from touring. Are artists (and promoters, vendors, venues, etc.) seeing the same kind of patterns? My guess is that everyone is making more money on the road, which means the industry is changing, not dying. Yes, there is less money to be made from record sales, but not from music creation.

  2. Re. Derek

    I am a touring musician, and have been for many years. I can say that I have seen a drop in merch sales on the road over the past several years. People are not buying as many cds as they used to. The upside is that people seemed much more inclined to spend money on vinyl these days, which was not the case ten years ago. So, to all touring bands, get that album pressed on wax!

  3. It doesn’t surprise me that CD sales are down on the road as well. It’s a medium without a fanbase, regardless of the point of sale. But I am wondering if ticket sales are steady (or increasing) industry-wide as well as the sales of other merch (t-shirts, hats, tour-only recordings, etc.)

    Niche markets are becoming so much easier to identify and market to with the Internet and the myriad tools at artists’ fingertips. I think Jack White has proven an interesting business model in his Third Man Records mantra of “digital where necessary; tangible where possible.” He’s identified a need in HIS audience for tactile, unique experiences and delivers with limited edition, colored vinyl and other interesting packaging and events. I’m not sure a major could support that sort of approach but who cares about the majors?

  4. Interesting points.

    As a musician who doesn’t make his living from his music, my “stats” are not very meaningful, but I can assure you that my merch sales–of CDs and t-shirts–are more than significantly better at shows than via iTunes, CDBaby, etc. You need tangible product, without a doubt, when playing for the folks.

    As for vinyl, there is a segment of the public more inclined to spend $25 on wax than $10 on a CD. Unfortunately, pressing vinyl is quite expensive so you need to have a pretty good idea of the size of your fanbase or, at the very least, how many people you’ll be performing in front of to make it work. In other words, without heavy touring and/or an opening slot w/an established act/draw, vinyl is not cost effective. But if you can swing it, by all means, go for it, as Dan proposes.

  5. Yes that’s the definition of long tail, and I’ll bet it’s a lot longer tail than it was in the 70’s, when sales were propelled by radio play instead of the internet.

  6. Took the wife to See Brad Paisley, a Livenation act, this past week. Watched the surprising number of fans paying $30 for a $3 tshirt, $15 for $1 shot glass. Derek is right the onus has shifted to touring acts that will (easily) recoup tour costs.

  7. The Long Tail, yes that’s exactly what I’m talking about. What’s most interesting to me about that theory is how it relates to music and how niche markets are so much more sustainable now.

    And while pressing vinyl is an expensive endeavor, it’s at least available to independent artists–you don’t need to be associated with a label to get your album pressed.

    So not only are the channels of communication set up to support niche markets, but so is the production infrastructure. From recording (Garage Band, ProTools), to promotion (MySpace, Facebook, Band Camp), to pressing and distribution (CDBaby), to touring (any number of social media tools to connect with bands and venues), to merchandising (CafePress, etc.)…You can do all this with relatively little capital and if you’re smart and dedicated to this part of the business, you CAN find your audience.

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