The numbers for 2010 album sales are all over the internet today, and the news is pretty much what you would expect. The music industry continues to die a slow, painful death and there aren’t many signs that things will change in the years to come. Overall, the number of album sales in the United States fell 12.8% to 326.2 million units from 373.9 million units in the prior year, as the sales of CDs fell by nearly 20% for the fourth year in a row.
Digital music sales were up, but not quite enough to help balance the hit of those previous numbers. According to Billboard, growth in individual track sales continued to slow, barely managing to eke out a 1% increase, as sales reached 1.17 billion units, versus 1.16 billion in 2009. Digital albums sales were up 13% in 2010, growing to 86.3 million from the 76.4 million.
The vinyl format continues to grow however, up 14% again in 2010. A total of 2.8 million vinyl albums were sold, up from 2.5 in 2009 and 1.88 in 2008. Some more details about the rise of vinyl from Billboard.
The 10 top-selling vinyl artists and artists in 2010 were split 60/40 between indie acts and heritage acts. The top three selling vinyl albums were the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” (35,000 units sold), the Arcade Fire’s “Suburbs” (18,800 units), and Black Keys “Brothers” (18,400 units). The top three selling vinyl artists were the Beatles (36,700 units), Black Keys (36,000 units), and Radiohead (30,500 units).
Before you get too excited about vinyl growth though, realize that in 2010 443.3 million albums were sold, and only 2.8 million of those were wax.
I bring this to your attention not because you didn’t already know people don’t buy music anymore, but rather to ask what’s next? Vinyl sales will continue to rise, but not enough to make them the dominant format or even a totally viable one for every artist to make their priority. Horrible sounding MP3′s will continue to be the preferred choice for non-collectors but how long before those numbers start to decline as well? The growth is not exactly encouraging.
UPDATE: In light of the announcement today from CES, subscription services like RDIO and MOG might be the future of music sales. While I am not sure how it is tracked by labels and bands, someone is getting paid (the labels) and this form of consumption is becoming more and more popular.