20% drop in US CD sales shows the power of the music fan

CD grave

I don't like buying albums, for one reason. Most of the time, they're a mixed bag. Some great tunes, some good tunes, some poor tunes. That's why I love ITunes. I can cherry-pick the songs I like and leave the rest behind. 99 cents a song? Thanks, I'll take four. Well, it looks like I'm not alone, because CD sales are down. Wayyyyyy down.

Nielson Soundscan, a music research company, has reported today that sales of US CDs are down 20% over the same period last year. What does that equate to? Well, compare the 112 million CDs sold in the first three months of 2006 to the 89 million sold in the same period of 2007. That's a big chunk of change.

Music execs were hoping the digital music downloading trend would bridge the gap. But this is where the power of music fans has underwhelmed the projections, and that's all down to choice. Some people will only buy two songs off a whole album. Others will buy four. Some buy the whole album at a knockdown price, but those people are much more rare. And that's sending a big message to musicians and the music industry. There can no longer be 'filler'. As consumers, we want powerful albums and powerful songs.

It'll take a few more years for digital music to obliterate CDs. But with MP3s and digital media increase in popularity, it may not be long before CDs go the same way as vinyl.


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Andrea Karim's picture

I recall my dad telling me that EVERYTHING would be on laser disc in the future. I told him that nothing the size of a record was going to replace the cassette tape, and I was kind of right.

I love iTunes as well, precisely because so much music on CDs is crap and I'd rather get just the good songs. Perhaps production will change in a revolutionary way. Maybe great songs will be produced that don't result in the creation of giant celebrity personalities. A distributed model, like grid computing. Lots of smaller and different artists collaborating across borders to create one or two hits that make it big.

Of course, the idea of having an ironic enjoyment of sucky music will have to pass, too.

Tannaz Sassooni's picture

it's weird to me how albums have been thrown to the wayside.  i usually have my itunes on shuffle so there is no continuity from one song to the next.  there's a cohesiveness to an album -- an overarching mood that differs between an artist's albums.  these days i often don't even know which album a song comes from, let alone what message that album is trying to convey.