Tag Archives: sales

Data: 2020 Total Music Sales and Streams

Streams are up, sales are down. Except for vinyl, which is up again for the sixteenth year in a row (but still less than the trusty old compact disc). The industry will try to convince you that “music consumption” is up, and maybe it is, but those calculations are squishy at best.

Especially when they change their formulas every year. This year, Billboard is not using total music streams (audio-only + video streams) in their “album equivalent audio music consumption” calculation “due to reporting methodology changes from a major video provider.” They are just using audio-only streams plus sales. This way, they can say that “album equivalent audio music consumption grew 12%.” Hooray! Good news, right?

Maybe. Without knowing exactly how that major video provider’s reporting methodology changed, how can we be sure that video streams didn’t just go down from 401 billion in 2019 to 147 billion in 2020? Looking at that, it does seem a little extreme, doesn’t it? Was the number of video streams inflated before? Regardless, including those 2020 video stream numbers in the calculation would mean that overall song streams fell from 1.147 trillion in 2019 to 1.02 trillion in 2020. Which, combined with the annual decrease in album sales, would make it look like overall music consumption dropped in 2020. And we can’t have that. Nobody like a loser.

Therefore, exclude the video streams altogether and everything’s rosy again! Label execs and the RIAA can feel like they’re earning their bonuses. Everyone’s a winner.

Whatever. Enough cynicism. If you want to support musicians, buy t-shirts and physical media directly from your favorite artists’ websites.

Let’s all hope we get to go to some concerts this year. Wouldn’t that be fun? So #saveourstages.

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

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2020: 102.4 million
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 Data: 2020 Total Music Sales and Streams

Dollars, Sense and Soundtracks

A word or several about the reported $300-million+ that Bob Dylan reportedly will be getting from Universal Music Publishing Group for his catalog of 600+ songs, songs written from 1962 until now. That is $500,000 per song. Yes, some of them—“Blown’ In the Wind,” “The Times They Are a Changin’,”“Like a Rolling Stone,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”—are certainly well known. One assumes that there are many, many, many others whom only the most dedicated Dylan fan would know or even be aware of (as I am not the most dedicated Dylan fan, I’ll not name any).

While it does make one wonder whether he’d gotten a few more dollars were he to have used the “g” rather than the “’” in the title of some of his tunes, we’ll let that go. Dylan has sold some 125-million records during his career. If we look at this as being a 58-year career (starting in 1962), this would mean that Dylan has sold an average 2.1-million records per year.

The times certainly are changing. For example, according to numbers from Billboard, Taylor Swift’s Folklore has become the first—and only—album to sell more than a million times in 2020.

Since her self-titled album of 2006, there have been nine Swift albums that have sold more than a million copies.

These are:

Taylor Swift: 5.75 million
The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection: 1.08 million
Fearless: 7.21 million
Speak Now: 4.71 million
Red: 4.49 million
1989: 6.25 million
Reputation: 2.28 million
Lover: 1.22 million
Folklore: 1.04 million

That is a total 34.03-million albums during a 14-year period. Which means that Swift has sold an average of 2.4-million per year, just edging Dylan out.

To be fair to Ms. Swift, she is 30 years old. Dylan is 79. She, presumably, has a whole lot more music in her to come than he does. [Correction: Swift turned 31 yesterday. -ed.]

This might lead some of you to think that I am making a comparison between the two musicians, causing a certain level of apoplexy among you. Yes, while I am making a comparison, this is not a comparison of talent.

Rather, it is a comparison of numbers.

Continue reading Dollars, Sense and Soundtracks

The End of Ownership: Material Gives Way to the Ephemeral

Here we are living through social distancing. Living through a period when we interact with people, primarily, unless those people are part of a small group we are confident of, via Zoom or Teams or from behind a mask, ideally six or more feet away. Masks and sweatpants have become increasingly important to people, the former because of the need to go out and the latter because somehow the “office” is something that is only evident from the waist up.

And when we have to encounter surfaces, there is a frantic look around for some means by which the object is sanitized or our hands are. Or both.

If we need stuff—like, say, food—then it isn’t a matter of just going down the street to the local bodega or hopping in the car and buzzing over to the supermarket. It is something that is carefully planned and executed. And while time has dulled the edge of the potential virus, there is still some hesitation regarding whether the objects should be brought in to the kitchen right away or whether those cans, boxes and bags should be permitted to settle for a period of time.

The material has become suspect.

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But it wasn’t COVID-19 that had the effect on the music industry in the U.S. that is unfolding. It seems that people have decided that when it comes to music, most are not particularly interested in any sort of ownership. The transient is sufficient. And when the numbers for 2020 are calculated, odds are that what occurred in 2019 will be nothing if not magnified.

In a report from the Recording Industry Association of America for overall economics of 2019, the trade group found “Total revenues from streaming music grew 19.9% to $8.8 billion in 2019, accounting for 79.5% of all recorded music revenues.”

And more telling: “The streaming market alone in 2019 was larger than the entire U.S. recorded market just 2 years ago in 2017.”

The biggest chunk of the monies in 2019 streaming were for subscription services, accounting for $6.8 billion. That in itself is 61% of total recorded music revenues.

Continue reading The End of Ownership: Material Gives Way to the Ephemeral

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.)

Continue reading The Money in Music

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.

Continue reading The Importance of Artifact

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).

Continue reading Taylor breaks a million for the fourth time

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.

Continue reading Recorded music revenue settling back into pre-90s levels