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Physical Album Sales Plummet, Digital Downloads are Up During Quarantine

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One week after physical album sales saw their lowest totals ever since Nielsen started tracking them in 1991, sales of vinyl and CDs in the U.S. again set a record low for the week ending March 26. Meanwhile, digital downloads saw an uptick to levels not seen in several months, and the net effect saw overall sales between all formats rise from the week prior.

According to Billboard, physical album sales dropped 23.7%, shifting only 747,000 copies, a new low, due to the shuttering of brick and mortar record stores to help combat the spread of the coronavirus. The previous week saw 979,000 units sold, a record-setting low at the time.

Meanwhile, with those on lockdown returning to old habits, digital album downloads soared 49.1% to 811,000 in the week ending March 26, the biggest week for digital albums since September, 2019. A big chunk of those sales came from catalog albums (older releases), which jumped 18.8% week over week to 389,000 sold.

All told, album sales grew 2.3% in the week ending March 26 to 1.558 million copies sold across all formats, a tick up from the record-setting low of 1.523 million in the week ending March 19.

Streaming numbers have been slumping as well absent the hours folks typically spend listening to music while commuting.

Stay-at-home orders have hit the music industry particularly hard, and there is no sign of that trend letting up. Hopefully this nightmare is over sooner rather than later.

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