Sunday, April 28, 2013

US Individual Track Sales Down, But Why?

Nielsen logo image
After a gangbuster growth rate for ten years, US individual music track sales are down 2% for the year through April 14th according to Nielsen SoundScan. While this may be a surprising stat, what's even more surprising is that digital album sales are actually up 9% for the year.

While digital track download sales had gone negative for a time in 2010, they actually ended the year in the positive. While this might happen again in 2013, it also might be an indication that the streaming music revolution is beginning to take hold, as more and more consumers discover the beauty of access or ownership. That might explain track sales, it doesn't adequately describe why album sales have increased though.

The two major theories on the subject are that more and more people are using Apple's Complete My Album feature to fill in their missing album tracks. The second theory is that both Amazon and Google Play are gaining market share from iTunes, mostly because of deep discounting, especially on albums. If I had to make a choice, I'd say the reason lies more in the fact that albums have been discounted rather than people trying to fill in those lost tracks that they never listen to anyway.

We'll have to see if either of these sales stats are temporary or long-term, but the only thing that will be a surprise is if album sales continue at their current pace. If they do, the bigger marketing question will remain, why?


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