Tag Archives: Soundscan

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

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

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

2015 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!

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: 542.4 588.2 million [Corrected 10/30/2017. -ed.]
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 2017 Soundscan data.There have been lots of updates, additions, and corrections. This page has old info.Get the latest and greatest!

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 Sales Over the Years: 2013 Year-End Soundscan Data

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!

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 2017 Soundscan data.

There have been lots of updates, additions, and corrections. This page has old info.

Get the latest and greatest!

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: 542.4 588.2 million [Corrected 10/30/2017. -ed.]
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.

12 Years of Album Sales: 2011 Year-End Soundscan Data

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!

The big news is that total albums sales actually went up a little for the first time since 2004. Of course, considering the fact that physical CD sales slid another 6% and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way sold a million copies for 99 cents, you can be sure that total album revenue is still way, way down this year.

But hey, folks bought 3.9 million vinyl albums in 2011! And check this out: “67% of all vinyl albums sold in 2011 were purchased at an independent music store and nearly 3 out of every 4 vinyl LPs bought were a rock album.” So: hooray for our side!

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2011: 330.57 million
2010: 326.15 million
2009: 373.9 million
2008: 428.4 million
2007: 500.5 million
2006: 542.4 588.2 million [Corrected 10/30/2017. -ed.]
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

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

Track equivalent albums (where 10 track downloads equal one album)

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

Digital Albums

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

2011: 3.9 million
2010: 2.8 million
2009: 2.5 million
2008: 1.88 million
2007: 990,000
2006: 858,000

2000: 1.5 million

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

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)

Current vs. Catalog

1999: 66.4% vs 33.6
1998: 64% vs 36%
1997: 59.9% vs 40.1%

Sources: Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, USA Today, Computer World, New York Times, Hollywood Reporter, CTV, BBC, WSJ, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Pitchfork.