U.S. Album Sales Fall to All-Time Low

Published by: Steve C. on 2nd Aug 2013 | View all blogs by Steve C.
U.S. Album Sales Fall to All-Time Low

US album sales have totaled less than 5 million units in each of the last five weeks, marking the longest stretch of sub-5 million record sales in the SoundScan era.  Additionally, one-week sales have set new record-lows in each of the last two weeks, underscoring the weakness in the industry brought on by the growing popularity of streaming music.  In the week ended July 28th, Americans picked up 4.68 million albums.  It was the lowest weekly record sales total since May 1991, when Nielsen Soundscan began tracking sales, unseating the previous record low of 4.71 million records, set just one week earlier.

The very first time in the Soundscan era that sales failed to hit 5 million was the week ended May 30, 2101, when sales came in at 4.98 million.  There were another three weeks that year in which sales were below 5 million, then two weeks in 2011 and three weeks last year.  Underscoring the dilemma facing the recording industry, 2013 has already seen a total of nine weeks with sales below 5 million, including the last five in a row with each of the last two weeks seeing a new record low.

Of course, just because album sales are dismal doesn't mean that money isn't being made off of music.  Coinciding with the anemic album sales trends has been a drastic upswing in streaming revenue for the industry, prompting a new wave of criticisms that streaming music services take away from album sales.  Some analysts believe the bleak sales lately can be attributed to a weak summer release schedule and general disinterest with music seen in a typical summer.  But the concern about streaming's effect on album sales is growing, and analysts are scrambling to find a way to prove it's happening.

Regardless of the reasons, album sales are definitely in a free-fall.  Through the first seven months of last year, not a stellar album sales year by any measure, a total of 103.3 million albums had been sold.  Sales through the end of July this year are 14.1 percent lower at just 88.8 million.  And some analysts say that the real problem may be worse than streaming taking away from albums, as digital sales growth has slowed this year, as well.  The real concern, some analysts fear, is that Americans may just be growing tired of paying for music with so many free outlets they can listen to.

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