U.S. ALBUM SALES FELL 9.5% IN 2007
The New York Times reports that overall sales of albums in the U.S. — that is, full albums in CD, tape, vinyl, or digital format (w/ 10 digital tracks being counted as an album) — fell 9.5% overall in 2007 from 2006. A total of 500.5 million albums in the form of CDs, cassettes, LPs and other formats were purchased last year, down 15 percent from the unit total for 2006, said Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks point-of-purchase sales; the decline in album sales drops to 9.5 percent when sales of digital singles are counted as 10-track equivalent albums.
The number of digital tracks sold, meanwhile, jumped 45 percent, to 844.2 million, compared with 588.2 million in 2006, with digital album sales accounting for 10 percent of total album purchases.
The actual number of music purchases went UP in 2007, including albums, singles, digital tracks and music videos, rising to 1.35 billion units, up 14 percent from 2006.
So what does this actually say? To me it says that the album itself — not the physical package, but the idea of packaging 10-12 songs together and selling that as a unit — is dying along with the CD format. Album sales are down, single track sales (via the Internet) are up; this much is pretty obvious. What it also says is that people are still interested in music, in fact even more interested than ever, seeing as the gross number of sales rose from 2006. But on the flip side, the units being sold are much, much cheaper to the consumer, leaving the record labels with a thinner profit margin.
The conclusion? Like I’ve been saying all along… the music business ain’t dead, it’s just fine. Interest is greater than ever before, despite (or perhaps because of) other media vying for kids’ attention like video games. But it needs to adjust to a smaller scale in which executives and mid-level managers — hell, pretty much everyone right on down to the artists — gets used to making less money. The expense accounts, private jets, big producer budgets and rampant FedExing can’t live any longer. In short, if you work in the music business and you’re in it for the money, now may be a good time to exit. And good riddance to you.