Tag Archives: Soundscan

Data: 2023 Total Music Sales and Streams

The music industry likes to talk about consumption, which is another word for tuberculosis, and it makes all real music lovers gag. They talk about consumption because they don’t want to talk about sales because sales are down from their pre-Napster heyday. Consumption is up though. So yay.

For real though, it’s a good thing that streaming has allowed people to listen to more music. Who could argue with that? (I mean, besides any artists who are unfortunate enough not to own their own masters…which is most of them.) But for fans, this is a great time to be alive. The celestial jukebox is real. And if you want something weird that’s not available on Spotify or Apple Music, there’s a good chance you will be able to find it on YouTube. Go nuts.

Just don’t try to convince us that streaming “love is embarrassing” 1,250 times is the same as listening to GUTS. You didn’t “consume” the album. So keep that in mind when you hear that total U.S. album consumption increased by 12.6% in 2023. Did it really? Song “consumption” may have increased but who knows how many people are actually listening to albums? There’s no way of measuring that.

But overall things do seem to be getting better for the music biz. Actual album sales rose a little bit. Vinyl is up. Even our beloved old compact disc did better this year. And of course streaming is way up. 1.453 trillion songs were streamed in 2023. That’s a lot of zeroes! 1,453,000,000,000 songs.

And a good chunk of those songs were recorded by Taylor Swift. No joke, Luminate reports that “1 in every 78 audio streams was a Taylor Swift song in the U.S. this year.” And Billboard points out that her collected catalog sold 6.172 million copies (3.484 million of that on vinyl!), accounting for “6% of all album sales last year across all albums by all artists.” She sold 1.014 million copies of 1989 (Taylor’s Version) on vinyl. It blows my mind that she even pressed a million records, let alone sold them all. It’s staggering.

* * *

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

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2023: 105.32 million
2022: 100.09 million
2021: 109.0 million
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: 2023 Total Music Sales and Streams

Numbers, Numbers & a Few More Numbers

Huh?

According to Luminate, entertainment data accumulator and analyzer, there were one trillion streams globally in three months this year. January to March. A trillion. A one followed by 12 zeros.

Super Fly Fan

Luminate definition of “super fan”:

“a music listener aged 13+ who engages with an artist and their content in multiple ways, from streaming to social media to purchasing physical music or merch items to attending live shows. More specifically, the super fans who were identified in the studies referenced in this report were participants that self-reported engaging with their favorite artists in 5+ ways.”

Seems that there is a lot of them in the U.S.: 15% of the general population 13 years old and above. Roughly 50 million.

How You Can Tell

A field guide to a probable super fan: “people who purchase CDs, cassettes, or vinyl, are more than 2x as likely (+128%) to be music super fans.”

Why Does This Matter?

“They also spend more than 80% more money on music each month than the average music listener.”

Physical Graffiti

Super fans like things that are more manifest than, say, NFTs (what has happened with them, by the way?).

Luminate describes them as “collectable-loving.”

As such, the vinyl boomlet, which, according to stats from the RIAA, has grown for 16 years running.

The RIAA found that in 2022 there were sales of $1.7-billion of physical musical media in the U.S., of which $1.2-billion was for vinyl. Which doesn’t leave a whole lot for CDs and the rest.

(“The rest?” you wonder. The RIAA includes music videos purchases, which accounted for $19.9 million, and “Other Physical”—CD singles, cassettes, vinyl singles, DVD audio, and SACD–that garnered $14 million.)

Continue reading Numbers, Numbers & a Few More Numbers

Data: 2022 Total Music Sales and Streams

People still buy albums. Taylor Swift fans, mostly. But still. 100 million physical and digital albums sold is not nothing. And Swift is responsible for 3% of those: 1,818,000 copies of Midnights (945,000 of those on vinyl!) and at least another 1.1 million more across her catalog.

Vinyl outsold CDs again, but its growth curve is leveling off, perhaps due to maxing out the existing pressing plants. One weird factoid in the Luminate U.S. Year-End Music Report for 2022 is that only “50% of vinyl buyers own a record player.” What’s up with that? Go buy a turntable, kids. (Preferably not a Crosley, but do what you gotta do.)

“Luminate,” by the way, is what Soundscan is calling itself these days. It was called “MRC Data” for a minute and before that it was “Nielsen Music Products” but now it’s Luminate. It’s the next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways, it’s still Soundscan to me.

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

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2022: 100.09 million
2021: 109.0 million
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: 2022 Total Music Sales and Streams

Data: 2021 Total Music Sales and Streams

The big news from MRC’s 2021 year-end report (if you’re a dork like me) is that vinyl finally surpassed compact discs as the most-sold physical format for the first time in the Soundscan era (i.e., since 1991). Still though, people bought over forty million CDs — nuts!

Also, total album sales (physical + digital) actually went up a little bit for the first time since a little blurp in 2011. Other than that it had been all downhill since 2000. Probably has a lot to do with Adele, whose 30 sold 1,464,000, and to Taylor Swift, whose four most recent albums sold a total of 1,975,000 in 2021. Out of Adele’s 1,464,000 album sales, 1,219,000 were physical copies and 318,000 of those were vinyl.

Swift sold 260,000 copies of her new version of Red on double vinyl at $50 a pop. That’s a gross of $13 million.

Personally, I just can’t bring myself to pay $50 for a record. I felt silly spending $30 on folklore. Then again, I’m totally paying $37.64 (including tax and shipping) to get my favorite album of 2019 (Hallelujah The Hills’ I’m You) on vinyl via a special program from Bandcamp where if 250 people pre-order, they press the vinyl for you. I’m excited about that.

I think of physical media these days almost like a “fan club favor,” as Bill Wyman put it. Wyman also pointed out, surprisingly to me, that after adjusting for inflation the “~$25 or so a dumb kid might pay for Rumours at Walmart today is about the same as what this dumb kid paid for it in 1977.” Who knew!

Maybe I’m a cheapskate (fact check: I’m definitely a cheapskate) but I miss being able to buy good used records in near mint condition for $4.99. Then again, back in the 90s you could find vintage Herman Miller furniture at thrift stores and garage sales. In fact, one summer I pulled both an Eames shell chair and a Marantz receiver off the curb on garbage day. Times change.

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

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2021: 109.0 million
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: 2021 Total Music Sales and Streams

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

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 2021 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