×

Music Sales Continue to Plummet for Albums and Digital Downloads

Music sales continued their free-fall during the first six months of 2014, as both albums and digital downloads again showed double-digit losses.

According to Nielsen SoundScan data released Wednesday for the year to date through June 29, total album sales in all formats plunged nearly 15%, with sales of almost 121 million, versus 142 million sold in the first six months of 2013.

To put the steepness of the decline in perspective: Just 18 months ago, Adele’s Grammy-winning “21” — the bestselling album of 2011 and 2012 — finished the latter year with sales in excess of 10 million. It is conceivable that such a phenomenon will not be seen in the industry again.

Digital track sales dropped 13% to 593.6 million, in comparison to 682.2 million moved in the same period last year.

On-demand streaming continued to boom, soaring 42% to almost 70.3 million streams (compared to 49.5 million in the same period last year). However, revenues derived from streaming are a fraction of those derived from physical and digital album sales on a per-unit basis.

Once again, vinyl albums showed a potent gain, up more than 40% to 4 million units (compared to 2.9 million in the first half of 2013), though the format remains a sliver of the industry’s overall business. Jack White’s “Lazaretto,” which was issued in a special holographic LP edition, was the bestselling title at 49,000 units.

In a statement, Nielsen senior vp David Bakula said the lifts in streaming and LP sales “shows interest in buying and consuming music continues to be robust, with two very distinct segments of the industry expanding substantially.”

So far this year, the bestselling album title – and the only one to sell more than a million units – is Disney’s soundtrack for the hit animated picture “Frozen,” which has moved nearly 2.7 million units. Cumulatively, the late-2013 release has sold just over 3 million; it is situated at No. 5 on the top albums chart released Wednesday.

Frozen” was succeeded among the year’s bestsellers by Beyonce’s self-titled collection (702,000), Eric Church’s “The Outsiders” (642,000), Lorde’s “Pure Heroine” (641,000), and Coldplay’s “Ghost Stories” (589,000). “Beyonce,” a surprise digital release in December, and Lorde’s title, the teen singer’s Grammy-nominated debut, were released in 2013.

Among digital songs, Pharrell Williams’ ubiquitous “Happy” — heard on the “Despicable Me 2” soundtrack” — was the top seller, moving 5.6 million for the year. It was followed by Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” (4 million), John Legend’s “All of Me” (3.8 million), Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty” (3.6 million) and “Frozen” vocal star Idina Menzel’s soundtrack hit “Let It Go” (2.8 million).

Perry’s “Dark Horse” was the most-streamed song, with 188 million audio and video spins to its credit. It was succeeded by Legend’s “All of Me” (145 million), Derulo’s “Talk Dirty” (142 million), Williams’ “Happy” (135 million) and Menzel’s “Let It Go” (129 million).

“Happy” was the most-played song on terrestrial radio stations tracked by SoundScan’s Broadcast Data Systems unit, with 571,000 spins.

More Music

  • Aqute Media Takes North America on

    Aqute Media Takes North America on Helen Reddy Biopic 'I Am Woman'

    London-based sales agent WestEnd Films has closed a North American deal with Jeff Sackman and Berry Meyerowitz’s company Aqute Media for “I Am Woman,” the biopic about Australian singer Helen Reddy. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival as the opening film of the Special Presentations section. The film also recently [...]

  • Taylor Swift performs on her 30th

    Vivendi Closes $3.3 Billion Sale of UMG to Tencent-Led Consortium

    Vivendi has closed the sale of 10% of its subsidiary Universal Music Group to a consortium led by the Chinese tech giant Tencent. The deal, which was announced in December, values UMG at €30 billion ($33 billion). As part of the agreement, the consortium – which includes Tencent Music Entertainment, as well as other financial [...]

  • Bob PittmanLupus Research Alliance 'Breaking Through

    iHeartMedia's Bob Pittman Foregoes Salary as Company Furloughs Employees

    iHeartMedia has joined the growing list of companies implementing sizable pay cuts for senior executives amid the upheaval caused by the coronavirus crisis. Bob Pittman, chairman and chief executive of broadcast giant iHeartRadio, which counts more than 800 stations as well as a formidable digital radio presence, will forego his salary for the remainder of the [...]

  • Jeff Bhasker House Los Angeles

    Jeff Bhasker Buys Groovy Los Feliz Midcentury Modern

    Over the years, unmolested and original midcentury modern homes have become increasingly scarce, even in the midcentury mecca that is Los Angeles. So when a 1958 gem in prime Los Feliz became available last year, for the very first time ever, potential buyers flocked to the residential time capsule. The unassuming house quickly sold for [...]

  • Sofar Sounds Launches 'Listening Room' Livestream

    Sofar Sounds Launches 'Listening Room' Livestream

    Sofar Sounds — which has made a name and a business for itself by staging “secret gigs and intimate concerts” featuring emerging artists for an invited, engaged audience — is among the many businesses in the live-entertainment space that have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. While it was thriving both as a platform — [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content