The charts provide an excellent overall picture of exactly what kind of music product has been sold since 1973. These charts take into account all kinds of music distribution formats, from vinyl albums to cassettes to 8 tracks to CDs to digital downloads.
The first chart just looks at albums.
You can see that the the best years were from 1995 until 2001 with the peak of almost 1.1 billion units in 2000. By 2010 sales were down to about a third of the peak sales, but digital album sales were increasing at a fairly rapid pace.
Now lets look at singles.
As you can see, the single was virtually a dead format by 2003, but once iTunes came online, the single took off into the stratosphere sales-wise to 1.1 billion in 2010.
What's the take away? In 2000 the music industry had it's best year ever with about 1.2 billion units (albums and singles) shipped. In 2010, the music industry shipped 1.4 billion units (combined albums and singles). The difference is that most of them were singles, which threw off a tenth as much revenue.
If you look at it from a revenue standpoint, the music industry is suffering, but we already knew that. But if you look at it from sheer popularity proven by overall units shipped, you can make a case that it's more popular than ever. The average fan just won't pay for filler anymore, nor does she have to - and that's the biggest difference of all.
Help support this blog. Any purchases made through our Amazon links help support this website with no cost to you.
You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.
Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.