US Music purchases rose by 2.1% in 2009, according to Nielsen Soundscan. That growth was due almost exclusively to digital song downloads which jumped 8.3% over last year to 1.16 billion tracks. That number has leveled off – down from 27% growth in 2008 and 45% growth in 2007.
At the same time that sales of music and digital tracks are growing, sales of albums have dropped. Overall album sales were down 8.5% to 490 million, although digital album sales rose 16.1% to 76.4 million.
Digital music now accounts for 40% of all music sales in the US. Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift, Susan Boyle and The Beatles Remastered collection were the top sellers of 2008. Lady Gaga sold more digital tracks (more than 15 million) in 2009 than any other artist.
An article in the Washington Post recently pointed out that declines in music sales were both contributing factors and negative results of Liquidations of the Virgin Megastore and Circuit City retail chains and the reduction in display space at retail outlets such as Borders.
There’s more to it than that – certainly online music stores such as the dominant iTunes are priced to encourage single track purchases rather than full albums. In many ways, it’s a return to the days of 45s, when songs were sold in pairs on a little tiny vinyl record…