CD Sales Plummet 15%; Digital Sales Gain 45%

Been meaning to get to this for a few days:

"U.S. album sales plunged 15% last year from 2006, as the recording industry marked another weak year of sales despite a 45% surge in the sale of digital tracks.

A total of 500.5 million albums were purchased as CDs, cassettes, LPs and other formats last year, down from 588 million in 2006, said Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks point-of-purchase sales.

The shortfall in album sales drops to 9.5% when sales of digital singles are counted as 10-track equivalent albums. The number of digital tracks sold jumped 45% to 844.2 million; digital album sales accounted for 10% of total album purchases.

For the first time since SoundScan started tracking genre sales, all 12 genres dropped, with rap down 30% and country more than 16%. Overall music purchases, including albums, singles, digital tracks and music videos, rose to 1.35 billion units, up 14% from 2006."

Rap down 30%?

No surprise, there. Rap peaked with the Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique, and has been downhill ever since . . .


Album Sales Drop Despite Digital’s Rise
Associated Press
January 4, 2008; Page B5

I particularly like the way Variety spun it last year:

Digital sales boost music industry
Album sales drop yet again
Variety Thurs., Jan. 4, 2007, 9:25am PT

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Sam commented on Jan 9

    Actually, rap peaked somewhere between Public Enemy and The Pharcyde. There are still some good acts out there, even some very imaginative guys like Outkast but you are correct – it’s over for a while for rap. It’ll be back though. Much like rock, it’s part of the culture that won’t go away.

  2. Tiggy commented on Jan 9

    You can’t spell cRAP without RAP!

  3. boomdotbust commented on Jan 9

    It’s those damn internets again.

  4. John Borchers commented on Jan 9

    Was doomed as soon as you could download them on the internet.

    Speaking of doomed. Here’s a YouTube video of the housing market plotted as a roller coaster ride.

  5. campbeln commented on Jan 9

    Agh, common Sam! Though I’d call the Beastie Boy’s Paul’s Boutique “Hip Hop” (as I’d also call most of the early “Rap”)… I guess “Hip Hop” is what became of early “Rap” where “Rap” was re-allocated to “Gangster Rap” and I guess the “Blig Rap” of today.

    So, with the splitting of hairs (Rap -vs- Hip Hop) I’d agree with your Public Enemy and The Pharcyde interpretation, but you can’t discount Paul’s Boutique! Just look what it did to sampling alone!

    Anyway… kudos to The Big Picture having great (read: my) taste in music!


  6. campbeln commented on Jan 9

    Um, that was ment to be “Bling Rap”… oops =)

  7. Joe commented on Jan 10

    Wow, I didn’t peg you for a Paul’s Boutique kind of guy. I’m impressed, you are officially the man.

  8. humanface commented on Jan 10

    new CW: rap sales are a leading indicator of consumer spending.

    btw, hip-hop peaked in late ’95 beginning its final run with ol’ dirty bastard’s return to the 36 chambers in march and then peaking with the release of raekwon’s only built 4 cuban linx in august and gza’s liquid swords marking the double top 3 months later.

  9. randy commented on Jan 10

    i trust humanface. wu tang is probably the pinnacle of rap. it is certainly not beastie boys. that is not rap. campbein is right, rap now means “gangsta rap” barry. get with the times.

  10. bc commented on Jan 10

    C’mon, guys. Beastie Boys? Wu?

    How about the Roots? Talib Kweli? Game Rebellion? Look to the underground…

    I know the intersection of BP readers and hip-hop heads is vanishingly small, but still…

    Barry, your main point is well taken. The *business* of hip-hop is dead, killed by the same forces of mediocrity and label myopia that threaten the industry as a whole.

    The artform will never die.

  11. A.Kane commented on Jan 10

    beastie boys are rap in the same way motley cru is rock.
    humanface is spot-on with his analysis.

  12. steven commented on Jan 10

    i agree with the last two comments.
    also, don’t sleep on notorious big.
    biggie smalls picked dudes like the beastie boys out of his stool.

    and man, people of all shades, class and race shouldn’t sleep on the roots. game theory, released in 2006 (that’s right) is an unbelievable funky and smart record.

  13. L’Emmerdeur commented on Jan 10

    BTW, sorta OT, didn’t I tell ya Apple would end up starting its own music labels a couple of years back?

  14. Trader Mike commented on Jan 10

    Rap peaked with the Beasties? Hell-to-the-no! That album doesn’t even crack my top 20.

    IMHO, rap/hip-hop peaked creatively in the late 80’s and early 90’s with many of the artists already mentioned above plus the Native Tongues crew.

  15. fatbear commented on Jan 10

    What part of this is Tower Records? How many CD sales were lost by that one chain closing? It did have a major impact on Classical (lots of Classical sales in the Tower markets [NY, LA, SF, etc]), driving mucho biz to Arkiv:

    ArkivMusic, an online retailer of classical music CDs that counts over 82,000 titles, including many formerly out-of-print albums, announced on Wednesday that it bucked the music industry’s overall downward trend, reporting record revenues and 30% year-over-year growth in 2007. By contrast, U.S. album sales were down 15% last year, according to SoundScan.

    Interesting, n’est pas?

    Especially as The company added that 10% of sales in the fourth quarter came from its ArkivCD program, which offers on-demand printing of nearly 5,000 out-of-print titles.

    Let’s hear a shout-out for on-demand!

    For more info from Arkiv here

  16. specter commented on Jan 10

    Paul’s Boutique? No way. It’s not even the best of their work. Innovative yes. Peak, not hardly. Rap had only begun it’s ascent at that point.

    If I had to call the peak, I’d say it was around The D.O.C’s The Formula. The Formula is possibly the perfect combination of both East and West coast styles. After that the entire genre succumbed to the gangstas, ‘hos, and bling of the the West coast in a race to the cultural bottom.

  17. Jeremiah commented on Jan 11

    I feel compelled to point this out: Sales are down only in the catalogs that Soundscan tracks…across the board, more people are buying digital downloads, it’s just they’re buying them in the Long Tail, where Neilson doesn’t track yet.

    To the best of my knowledge, artists like Josh Woodward ( do not report their sales to Soundscan.

    Second tangent: There are some half-million titles that are in “grey” circulation on the web. If the actual catalog owners (read: major labels) got off their ass and made these titles legally available, I’d bet these numbers would increase greatly.

    My prediction from inside the biz: more people than ever in 2008 (despite the economy) will buy digital versions of their existing libraries (it’s cheaper than ripping on your own).