Now we're not just talking about just physical CD sales here - we talking about CD's AND digital sales combined. While I don't believe that this number truly represents the total of all sales (there still are a lot of private sales that aren't counted), it does represent one fact - the music business is in deep trouble.
I think it's too easy to focus on the fact that the CD is now old technology and the consumer wants to move on. It's too easy to say that it's a singles world these days and no one wants a package of songs. It's too easy to say that marketing is now so fragmented (as is the audience) that the consumer can no longer be easily reached.
It is fair to say that people consume more music than ever before, they just don't pay for it like they used to. There's little incentive to at this point.
But music has always been given away for free from the earliest days of radio. The product was free, but you couldn't get it whenever you wanted. You had to wait until a song was played and that's why you bought the record/CD/cassette - to have the personal ability to access that music any time you want. Either you endured the anticipation of waiting to hear it for free, or you laid your money down to own it.
So if there's no anticipation left in music in these days of instant access, what else is there?
Let's assume that the industry was vibrant today, full of new and exciting acts creating music that the audience couldn't get enough of. Sure, sales would be up, but would that solve the problem?
Probably not. We have to think outside the box to develop a new product - something that can't be accessed as randomly, yet provides a greater value to the fans. Perhaps it isn't a single music product anymore. Perhaps it's a bundle - concert tickets and a CD/download, merchandise and music.
Whatever the product, it must be more than we have to offer today. That ship has sailed and it ain't coming back.
Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.