During the recent NARM (National Association of Recording Merchandisers) convention, David Bakula, senior VP of entertainment analytics for Nielsen, reported that digital music sales have made up for the decline in physical album sales this year, with overall sales totals up by nearly five percent.
Reporting on Bakula’s web seminar during NARM, Variety magazine noted that total music sales have increased 4.8 percent this year from 2010. Music sales to date total 277 million units compared to 264 million for the same period last year.
Physical album sales are down four percent, continuing an annual trend, but the upswing in digital sales made up for the decline, according to Bakula. Digital album sales topped 63 million, an increase of 19.1 percent. Digital sales now reportedly account for 32 percent of all sales, with electronic music, the leading genre, accounting for 49 percent. Digital TEA sales [Track Equivalent Albums; 10 digital tracks measured as one album] increased 10.9 percent to 82 million units.
According to Bakula, the increase in digital sales may be partly attributed to the shutting down of the LimeWire site by the RIAA, together with the release of the Beatles catalog on iTunes.
The year's best sellers so far have included Adele's 21 (3.1 million units); Lady Gaga's Born This Way (1.7 million); Mumford & Sons' Sigh No More (1.1 million); Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party (1 million); and Bruno Mars' Doo Wops & Hooligans (769,000). (The latter three titles were released in 2010.)
Bakula noted that Taylor Swift's Speak Now, which was released late in 2010 and has passed 3.6 million sales, could distort year-to-year figures. But those sales could be balanced out by Lady Antebellum's follow-up to the hugely successful Need You Now. The band’s new Own the Night is due for release in late September.
Bakula also reported that sales of current albums are down 2.4 percent. At the same time, catalog sales are up 8.5 percent and now account for more than half of all album sales.
The vinyl format, which account for 1.6 percent of physical sales, is on track to reach 3.7 million units by the end of the year, an increase of 30 percent.
As a result of the overall increase in digital sales, chain retailers and indie stores have seen decreases of 9.7 percent and 8.5 percent respectively, with digital retailers enjoying a 14.3 percent bump as of August 21.