2010 Music Sales

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Photo licensed under a CC BY-SA-2.0 license by freeloosedirt via Flickr. Picture taken outside Buffalo Records in Ventura.

Get ready to listen to the same annual cry from the music industry – “The sky is falling!” NPR’s music blog, The Record, has the details.

For the first time, all music sales, when adding CD, LP, cassette and digital – declined as a total. Digital tracks grew 1%. One thing the article and Soundscan’s numbers don’t cover is how digital sales break down. I would have to guess that the trend of individual track sales is still growing – which continues to impact albums sold via digital. Total albums sales fell to 326 million, the lowest since 1993, a drop of 13%, which was the same decline as 2009 for total album sales.

NPR’s article goes on to say that the “”return of vinyl” has hit the brakes.” Contrast that with a Rolling Stone article, also released yesterday, whose headline says “Vinyl Sales Increase Despite Industry Slump”. So whose spin are you going to believe? After reading the NPR article, which points out how terrible the music industry is doing, I’ll take the Rolling Stone’s more positive headline. I would think the music industry and their PR flacks would want to jump on any positive news, and the fact that vinyl sales grew 14% year over year, especially when compared to the other declining numbers, is definitely a positive.

Total vinyl sales were the highest they’ve been since 1991, and for a format most people would consider dead, this growth should be good news to the industry, especially when you consider the average selling price for a vinyl album is significantly higher than a digital album or CD.

Best selling new vinyl albums, in order, for 2010 were:

  • Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
  • The Black Keys – Brothers
  • Vampire Weekend – Contra
  • The National – High Violet

The best selling overall vinyl album was The Beatles’ Abbey Road.

I believe in quality over quantity and if the record industry would focus on longevity and the quality of the artists rather than hit machines, it would be a different story.  But that’s an article for another time.

Here’s to another year of growth for vinyl in 2011!

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