Music in 2013: Purchases Down 6%; Timberlake Tops Album Sales

Justin Timberlake Stop Acting
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In another grim year for the music business, sales lost further steam in both the physical and digital realms, according to 2013 year-end figures from Nielsen SoundScan.

The only positive news for the biz was a 32% increase in overall music streams to 118.1 billion, comprising data collected by the metrics firm from AOL, Cricket, MediaNet, Rdio, Rhapsody, Slacker, Spotify, YouTube/Vevo and Zune. Nielsen Entertainment senior VP David Bakula noted that the streams had the approximate revenue equivalent of 59 million albums purchased.

Nonetheless, overall music sales transactions slipped 6.3% during the year, down to 1.56 billion from 1.66 billion in 2012.

Through the week that ended Dec. 29, total album sales (CDs, digital albums, LPs and cassettes) slumped 8% to 289.4 million, off from 316 million the previous year. Albums had witnessed a 4.4% decline in 2012, after registering a slight increase of 1.3% in 2011.

Physical music sales (CDs, cassettes and LPs) plunged 13% to 1.55 million, from 1.66 million in 2012. CD sales plummeted another 14% to 165 million, down from 193 million the prior year.

The most harrowing news for the industry may have been flat sales of digital album downloads. They remained steady at 118 million following a record year in 2012.

Digital song sales also lost ground for the first time, off 6% to 1.26 billion songs last year, compared to the record 1.34 billion purchased in 2012.

However, the vinyl LP format continued to show signs of life, soaring 33% to 6.1 million units, up from 2012’s 4.55 million. However, vinyl represents just a sliver of the music sales pie. The top-selling LP title, Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories,” shifted only 49,000 copies.

Unsurprisingly, Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience,” released in March behind a promotional juggernaut, was the biggest-selling album of 2013 with 2.43 million sold. That number was the smallest for a top-selling title since Lil’ Wayne’s “Tha Carter III” sold 2.87 million in 2008, then a record low for a year’s bestseller in SoundScan history. Timberlake’s tally paled after the monumental sales of Adele’s “21,” which took top-selling honors in 2012 (4.41 million) and 2011 (5.82 million).

Timberlake’s album was also the top-selling digital title of the year, with 1.03 million shifted.

The other bestsellers in the year’s top 10 were Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” (1.73 million), Luke Bryan’s “Crash My Party” (1.52 million), Imagine Dragons’ 2012 release “Night Visions” (1.4 million in 2013), Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox” (almost 1.4 million), Florida Georgia Line’s “Here’s to the Good Times” (1.34 million), Drake’s “Nothing Was the Same” (1.34 million), Beyonce’s self-titled collection (1.3 million), Blake Shelton’s “Based on a True Story” (1.11 million) and Jay Z’s “Magna Carta Holy Grail” (1.1 million).

The top five bestselling digital songs of the year were Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (6.5 million sold), Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” (6.15 million), Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” (5.5 million), Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” (4.69 million) and Lorde’s “Royals” (4.42 million).

The most streamed songs of the year were Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” (490 million), Psy’s “Gangnam Style” (280 million), Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” (257 million), Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” (171.3 million) and Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” (171.3 million).

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    1. ric822 says:

      So much of the “original” music that is being pushed upon us is regurgitated derivative crap that maybe we are figuring out that we want something truly new and truly original.

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