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

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).

More Music

  • Chvrches album review

    Album Review: Chvrches' 'Love Is Dead'

    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, […]

  • Jagged Little Pill review

    Regional Theater Review: 'Jagged Little Pill'

    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, […]

  • Shawn Mendes

    Album Review: 'Shawn Mendes'

    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, […]

  • YouTube’s New Premium Music Service: Is

    YouTube’s New Premium Music Service: Is It Worth It?

    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, […]

  • Is Spotify Walking Back Its Anti-Hate

    Is Spotify Walking Back Its Anti-Hate Policy?

    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, […]

  • Hair

    'Hair' Set as NBC's Next Live Musical

    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, […]

  • Emma Banks

    Katy Perry, Lorde Agent Emma Banks to Receive 2018 Music Industry Trusts Award

    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, […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content