Album sales last week hit an alltime low

Album sales last week hit an alltime low


norman lebrecht

November 04, 2013

Data from Nielsen Soundscan, which registers every record sale in the US, reports that 4.5 million albums were sold last week. That covers all genres and formats, from classical to Coldplay, digital to vinyl.

This is the lowest weekly number since accurate records were first kept in 1991. The only recorded format to show an increase is vinyl, which continues to boom.

The downwards trend points to the end of the hour-plus album as a means of bundling music. Consumers appear to be heading for pick and mix with single tracks.

Nothing stands still. Nothing stays the same.



  • Tim Benjamin says:

    Well it’s probably all Spotify’s fault. I used to spend perhaps £30/month on CDs but now I spend nothing on CDs, and instead £10/month on a high def stream from Spotify, which allows me to make things available offline and also stream to my mobile*. In theory, I might buy CDs as a result of finding things there but in practice I haven’t. It’s a shame as I quite like building my own “library” but it seems futile when there’s this huge amount of great stuff on Spotify to be listened to. For a start, as a library of opera recordings, it’s invaluable…

    * mobile listening: contrary to expectations, with a good set of headphones this is much better than merely acceptable…

    • David Boxwell says:

      I have “curated” a Spotify playlist of 42 different recordings of Mahler’s 4th. 42 to choose from. Which means, after building the playlist, I am not listening to any Mahler 4th. I am currently working on the playlist for Mahler’s other symphonies, which I will not listen to.

      Sign of the times: you can now buy whole sets of CDs by the yard, like bolts of cloth. (i.e. 3 yards of Furtwangler, 2 yards of Reiner, 1 yard of Perahia, etc.)

  • Una says:

    The trouble is that my speakers and equipment for CDs and DVDs in my living room are far better than those from my computer, which is in a study and where I can listen to Spotify or YouTube when I’m working and where it becomes background music, but I prefer to listen to music away from a working atmostphere and away from doing anything else. I still buy CDs and DVDs both for myself and for presents for people – in fact just got the CD of the first performance of Britten’s War Requiem in Coventry Cathedral through the door as I type with the wonderful Heather Harper, who taught me, and DVDs of Tito Gobbi’s 100 anniversary with Neil Howlett as the baritone and who is now teaching me. They are for the living room with my feet up, the heating turned on, the curtains drawn and a glass of wine to sip – not for all this blogging 🙂 I’d say we should all try and buy CDs and DVDs when we can but there is room for Spotify as some of that music you can’t get on CD – Anna Reynolds singing Bach, for instance!

    • Tim Benjamin says:

      That’s the thing, you see, you can just plug your mobile device (phone or whatever) into your hifi and get the best of both worlds. I do that for example when I want to practice along with a string quartet or orchestral piece that I am trying to learn, or indeed just for listening.

      I do actually prefer the idea of the CD, the booklet that comes with it, and owning a physical object that contains the music, for me to do what I like with forever (or as long as they continue to make CD players!) – and I hate the idea that musicians are allegedly paid peanuts for Spotify streams. But, convenience at the moment trumps everything else, for me.

      Also for the next generation of listeners… they are probably not going to be buying CDs.

      What I think would be the final nails in my CD collection’s coffin would be:

      1) properly catalogued classical music on a streaming service (i.e. by composer and work first not by performer first)

      2) even higher quality streams (FLACs ideally… but that would also require faster broadband)

      3) well-written “programme notes” (i.e. those nice CD booklets!) online as part of the same service, perhaps cross-referenced with even more detailed info + imagery on the performers, composer, history, etc etc

      Then I’d just stream wirelessly into my hifi and read the notes on a tablet while listening.

      • Dave T says:

        4) Have the score pop up on that tablet, perhaps with a cursor which moves along the score with the playback of the music.

      • PR Deltoid says:

        “I do actually prefer the idea of the CD, the booklet that comes with it, and owning a physical object that contains the music” – me too, as do lots of other fans of classical, jazz and other forms of complex music. I’m even heading back in time, via recent purchase of a turntable. Vinyl can be exasperating, but it has a charm and enchantment all its own!

  • robcat2075 says:

    Borderline surprised that accurate records have only been kept since 1991. Everything before that was smoke and PR?