Music sales hit record high

An increase in the number of albums reaching multiplatinum levels, strong compact disc sales and the popularity of music videos helped drive U.S. recorded sales to an all-time high of $ 10 billion in 1993. The figures were part of the annual year-end report released today by the Recording Industry Assn. of America.

“Our healthy 1993 figures reflect continued growth and are proof that the industry is meeting consumers’ taste for a wide variety of quality music,” said Jay Berman, president of the RIAA.

According to the report, the $ 10 billion figure is based on net shipments, reflecting the number of units released into all segments of the total marketplace. Overall unit shipments were 955.6 million units, up from 1992’s total of 895.5 million.

The dollar value of those shipments, which are calculated at suggested list price, showed an 11.3% increase over the 1992 figure of $ 9 billion. The figures are compiled by accounting firm KPMG Peat Marwick — assisted by the RIAA Market Research Committee — that used figures provided by U.S. record companies.

While distributors have lamented during the past two years over flat domestic sales, with the 1992 numbers being partially blamed on the tail end of a recession, these figures show an upbeat prognosis for sales of recorded music. In 1993, industry observers note, the economy was in a recovery, so 1994 numbers areexpected to be even higher.

Clips hit

Other industry bright spots include musicvideos, long thought of as an offshot of the industry, proved its importance to the bottom line by logging double-digit sales increases with sales of $ 213.3 million, up from 1992’s $ 157 .4 million mark.

But the compact disc continues to be the format of choice, with 495.4 million units being shipped in 1993, nearly 100 million more than the 407.5 million unit total in 1992.

CDs registered a 21.6% increase in units and a 22.2% increase in dollar value totalling $ 6.5 billion, and represented the largest and fastest growing format in the market. With CD players in 43% of American households, according to data supplied by the Electronic Industries Assn., growth in the format should continue to climb.

Industry observers note that CD sales are likely to climb significantly in years ahead when more CD players are installed in cars and the sales of portable units increase.

Cassettes, despite being the second-most popular format, lost some ground over ’92. The dollar value of cassette shipments dropped to $ 2.9 billion in ’93 , down from the previous year’s $ 3.1 billion total.

Consumers, they note, often buy music in two formats — the CD for the house and cassettes for the car. Once CD player penetration increases, especially in autos, the unit volume of cassettes should fall off significantly, observers suggest.

The figures are bolstered by the wealth of multiplatinum sales by established artists, as well as a number of platinum breakthroughs by emerging acts. Seven artists sold more than 2 million albums in the last half of 1993, a feat unmatched in previous years.

Buoyed by a mixed bag of efforts by Pearl Jam and Snoop Doggy Dogg and stalwarts such as Frank Sinatra and Michael Bolton, album sales crossed several generational lines.

‘Healthy’ sign

The RIAA’s figures measure product shipped to all accounts, including direct mail, special products, and clubs, which are typically not captured in SoundScan’s point-of-sale data. The report’s numbers offer an industrywide status, rather than just consumer purchases at the retail level.

Mike Shalett, chief operating officer of SoundScan, said the numbers “point out the health of the business,” noting that “the breadth of the music, from rappers to crooners to soundtracks, drove the market. We didn’t have to rely on one big release. And that’s healthy,” he said.

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