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Sales in Music Drop, I'm Still a Fan

Global sales in music dropped by $1.5bn in the last year. That's a drop of 8.4%. Sales of CDs dropped by nearly 15%. No wonder labels are thinking about dropping the CD (I believe that niche markets like glam, or classical, will continue to see CDs manufactured, but that pop music will not). Those figures are worldwide.

In the US, overall sales dropped 10%, and CD sales dropped by 20%. If you look at the best selling albums for each decade, you see from the 70s to the 80s to the 90s, that the numbers kept growing.

Now, they are falling. Sebastian Bach released a CD recently, Kicking and Screaming. He announced that as his CD debuted at #67 in the Billboard charts, and the last one debuted at #190, so now he feels he will make more CDs. Sounds good. However, Angel Down sold 6,400 units in it's first week, and Kicking and Screaming sold 6,600.

In contrast, the original Skid Row CD was recently at number 103, having sold 1,762 copies that week. Metallica's self titled CD is still at number 55. Dark Side of the Moon is at number 38. Going back to the 90s, the best selling CD of 1999 was Millenium, but the Backstreet Boys. It sold 9.5 million copies. Assuming it was on sale all year, that's 180 thousand copies a week. The Dixe Chicks, the 10th best selling album of that year, if it was selling all year, sold 67 thousand copies a week. In other words, if they released DURING that year, then they sold more. Amy Winehouse, at number one in the chart I found online for 2011, sold 12,700 copies in that week. There can be no question that music is selling less, a lot less. The question is, why?

I think piracy plays a huge part. I know people who ran a local music store (since closed) and they lost 1/3 of their sales overnight when Napster hit the news. I'd like to think that people like Sebastian Bach still chart because we are more loyal to the artists we love than the typical pop fan. But, I think there's
something else going on. I think kids nowadays don't love music the way we did. I think they have other priorities. I wonder if the bands of today will go on to have long careers, or if the idea of a career in music is simply fading away, all around us. I hope not. But, all the signs are there. There is no question that there's less money being made on music sales, and that's music to support artists who are just getting by, to support stores, to support people working in recording and distribution. There's a lot of jobs disappearing, and the music industry is looking less like an industry all the time.

One thing is for sure, I'm stocking up on CDs before they stop making them. Although, I've wondered if the "no more CDs" story was designed to make me do that, I am certain this is an industry trying everything it can to survive.

Reader Comments (24)

of course Piracy is playing the biggest part in cd and DVD sales,...just look at Blockbuster...on another note though, records or Vinyl is a market that many bands are exploring now as pirating an album is so tough...I know that I have bought two 45's and one album in the last month from 3 different bands, whereas I have pirated probably 5 cd's in the past month...just pointing out the facts,...but when I really want to hear a cd and I need it like now, thats what I do is steal it,...I know I'm not alone...I also feel that Piracy has made our bands more accesible, as now the bands usually do meet and greets to sell merch after a show,...that never happened in the 70's or 80's or even the 90's... I have met more band members in the past 10 yrs than the 24 yrs prior to that because of aftershow meet and greets at merch tables, my first concert was Stones in 1978....I always buy a shirt, I have tons of shirts,I buy shirts that dont even fit me to support bands,..I brought one home a couple weeks ago that my wife put on first thing in the morning and she will never wear it again, its probably gone to goodwill,...however,..thats the way to support a band!
November 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertoddwiggy
As I posted on the labels ditch CD's story - there is no truth in stories that major labels are about to drop cd's. Of course that day is coming, but it is nowhere near as close as some are making out.

Billboard on future of CDs: "Record labels have shown no desire to ditch the CD. The format still accounts for most sales revenue."
November 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTony
who cares about "industry". Its called evolution. if people want to hear music, they will.

if we cant get it on cd, we'll get it somehow.

many industries are crumbling. cant say i feel any worse for the music industry.

should i keep on using the post office when e-payment is easier and cheaper just to save a mailmans job? no. its all gotta settle down and let the market correct itself..
November 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKixchix
Supply and demand, if record companies would stop saturating the market with so much crap and concentrated on quality musicianship acts the only thing that would happen is a return to better sales sans the 80's & 90's. Stop the one hit wonder search and work with acts for multi year success.
November 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlooksthatkill
The only thing I ever pirated was the superb "30 Days In The Hole" cover by Kick Axe and that's cuz it was never released in CD and only available as a bonus track on a limited release of their album, "Vices" or on the "Up The Creek" Movie Soundtrack.

I will buy everything that I like and that I can get on CD, LP, Cassette, 45, EP, 12", 8-Track, you name it, 'til the day I die!

Yes, I believe in supporting the bands but I have a more selfish motive -- I'm a collector, as I'm sure many of you are, and I like owning the physical thing. I also love looking at the artwork n' stuff.

I love finding hidden gems I've never heard before and I won't
stop until I own it all!
November 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
Metalboy, I am with you. People saying 'why should I pay for a CD when I can just steal it', miss the point. Perhaps bands are more accessible, because they have to be, because they can't make money anymore. But, 'looksthatkill', were you alive in the 80s ? The music industry has always flooded the market with pop crap, to get large, short term sales. Do you think the radio played Deep Purple in the 70s? They played the Captain and Tennille, and 'yummy yummy, I've got love in my tummy'. Just because you can steal, doesn't make it right. If I think that McDonalds is crap, I don't buy food there, I don't decide that means I can steal from them. Record companies are putting less money in to developing acts who will have a career, because they don't make enough of a return to do it anymore. Why ? Because they'll spend all that money to develop an act, and so called 'fans' will respond by stealing the music. I'm not sure what the 'we can't get it on CD' reference means. Yes, I would download stuff I can't get any other way, that is, old stuff. If something is only available as an expensive import, I import it. If it's for sale, and I want it, downloading it is stealing it. I'd rather support artists and for the music I love to remain viable.
November 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristian
hey...those are all valid comments...I forgot to mention though...of the cd's I did buy this year,most were on digital download from Itunes,...some people like to collect all the stuff, but guess what,...I've got a ton of band stuff, I'm still buying it, my wife and I have raised two kids that have grown and left for school now, we have a ton of shit in this house.I dont need anymore, I have crates of albums, shelfs of albums, I rarely look at them and seldom play them...I love em but have no problem with digital now, its fast, reasonably priced,... The digital format is great also because I own it for life,I can burn a cd if I prefer or just leave it on my computer and ipod, I can flip between bands and songs and albums way faster on digital than vinyl or even cd's,...I've spent so much time in record stores in my life but I never go into one anymore,...If I actually buy an actual cd or vinyl record anymore its always direct from the band at a show...whatever,..I'm gonna start arguing with myself now!
November 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertoddwiggy
Sure - people who would prefer to buy mp3s are fine with me. I prefer CDs, but if the band gets paid then it's up to you what format you prefer.
November 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristian
Christian! Just picked up The Angel's first two on CD! Had 'em from iTunes but wanted the actual CDs as they are just one of the Rockingest bands ever.

I always want the real deal when it comes to real music!

But, Todd, I hear ya. I have so much stuff in storage, so I know what you mean. Still, I like knowing I got the actual official CD, so I'm always willing to devote space to it.
November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
Metalboy - the first two are The Angels and Face to Face ? The Aussie Face to Face or the US one that's basically a best of ? You know that they are with a new singer now and have a song out with a CD to come ? Have you seen this ? ? I know it's got no extras, but I do love those album cover reproductions ( even if I know it's cheaper for them )
November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristian
It's easy to blame piracy on the downfall of the recording industry, but it's not just piracy. Yes, it has an impact and it's the easiest thing for the industry to blame.

But the truth is that digital distribution has completely changed how we can access music. I can legitimately listen to high quality versions of virtually any song, anywhere, for free via YouTube or their web sites. Or, I can pay to download an electronic copy from iTunes. Or I can pay $10 per month and listen to unlimited music, where I want and how I want from Spotify or Unless you enjoy collecting (which many do, and always will), there's no reason to spend $$ on a CD any more.

All of this is terrific for consumers. I could personally care less about owning physical media, so I love the new digital options that are available. Choosing digital does not make people bad music fans, any more than choosing to read a news article online makes someone a bad news fan. It's just a distribution mechanism.

On a somewhat different note, I often read the argument that buying a CD gives your favorite band some $$, so it's sort of a moral obligation to support them this way. It's a nice sentiment, but it's also mostly false. With the exception of the top few bands who are in their 2nd or 3rd record deals, most bands don't see a dime from the sales of their recordings unless they do _huge_ sales. Most of the money from CD sales goes to the recording company to pay back the advance they gave the artist when they signed, or before recording.

The exception would be independent bands who self-publish & distribute their recordings -- they see much more of the revenue and since they had to up-front the recording & manufacturing costs, every sale does have an impact.

But by and large, bands make their money from touring & merch - always have, always will. If you want to truly support them, make sure to buy a ticket & a t-shirt the next time they come around.
November 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbryon
Bryon, that's not really correct. Bands used to tour to sell albums, now they release albums so they can tour. That's why ticket prices are so high. Also, your logic seems to be that most artists will die in bankrupt penury, so why bother helping them ?
November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristian
Kixchix is spot on here. Music itself is not dying. Humans were making music long before their was a so-called music industry, and they will continue to do so afterwards. It is not my obligation to prop up the antequated distribution method that is the CD. I buy MP3 albums from Amazon, and that is what I will continue to do.

I have absolutely no compassion whatsoever for the tons of non-musicians who make up the music industry. When Napster took off, the major record labels should have embraced the technology and figured out how to monetize it, but instead they tried to sue it out of existance. they made their own mess, and now they have to wallow in it. One thing I will say for both the movie and music industries, they sure know how to blame everybody but themselves, and manipulate the truth to make people feel sorry for them.
November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBob

Many (most?) bands do end up owing the record companies money because they weren't able to generate enough in recording royalties to pay off their advances. I doubt the record companies chase them, tho, so it's unlikely that many end up in actual bankruptcy.

I'm not talking about the big bands of course - bands like Motley, Poison, Warrant, Cinderella, Extreme, GNR all sold tons of records and everyone made (and in some cases, still makes) money off of them. But for every Motley, there are tens, if not hundreds of signed bands who don't make a cent in royalties. Those are the guys who it's nice to think you're supporting, but in reality they will never see a cent of your CD money.

It's these smaller guys need you to buy shirts and concert tickets, revenues which usually fall outside the realm of their record contracts (unless it's one of the new-style 360 deals).

As for concert ticket prices, they are priced to the maximum point where they will sell. Nothing more, nothing less. Ticket prices are so high because we continue to pay them; if a promoter can make $120 from a ticket, he's going to sell it at $120, regardless of whether the band would have been happy to make 1/2 as much by selling them for $60. Guaranteed that if the prices were too high, people would stop going and the prices will drop.

In fact, I think some of that is going on right now. I recently read that overall concert attendance actually dropped in 2011 from 2010. So maybe we'll actually see some lower prices next year.
November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBryon
@Christian: by the way, great topic!
November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBryon
and nice to read mature statements without somebody calling somebody else out, or childish names,...whatever...until next time...
November 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertoddwiggy
"Until next time", my a*ss, Toddwiggy, you frickin'...

Just kiddin'! But, look, we're just gettin' started!

Christian, stop thinkin' everyone else is an idiot! I got The Angels first two albums, original Aussie pressings and long out of print. It's pretty much the only way I roll when it comes to CD collecting. I usually only get original releases, rarely going for reissues unless they are caringly done with faithful and sometimes expanded liner notes, graphics and artwork along with extra bonus tracks.
November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
And you're right, "Face To Face", was an American repackaging job that was essentially a "Best Of". And the record company also renamed the band Angel City for U.S. mass consumption primarily because of legal rights when they released the album.

Don't know if you caught it, but I'm pretty sure Axl was sayin' on That Metal Show, one of the bands he's been listening to lately is Angel City. I assume he meant these guys.
November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
Metalboy, all the Angels CDs have been re-released in Australia and are very much in print. I agree, though, I'd prefer an original release where I can. The band was called Angel City, and then 'The Angels from Angel City' because of a name clash, yes. I did not see that, but yes, I assume that is who he means.

Byron - yes, most bands ended up owing money and IMO the industry is trying to stop people having careers, so they can control them better. I do agree the industry handled Napster badly, not least b/c it was easy to steal music before Napster, and I assume it still is. No-one can control the web, that is the issue. Until mp3 players were mainstream, there was no mainstream market to sell mp3s, IMO.
November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristian
Just to add, it's easy to think of examples like GnR, who are obviously all still rich, or bands that obviously made no money from CD sales anyhow. But, apart from the ethics of the thing, the best example I can think of to consider, is Motorhead. Lemmy lives in a small place, and is obviously not loaded. But, he makes a living out of music. He's exactly the sort of artist who is keeping himself going now, but could well find that harder, if more and more people steal his music instead of buying it.
November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristian

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