Nielsen SoundScan and Billboard have published US music sales figures for the first half of 2013, confirming most of the trends that the industry has suspected.
Total album sales were down 5.6% year-on-year to 142m, with CD album sales down 14.2% to 78.2m, digital album sales up 6.3% to 60.8m and vinyl album sales up 33.5% to 2.9m as part of that.
Digital track sales are down 2.3%, while audio and video streams for services that reported figures to Nielsen for the first halves of both 2012 and 2013 were up 24% to 50.94bn.
There have been a few instant reactions focusing on streaming cannibalising downloads, but that justifies a bit more digging. If you just count digital single-tracks, there were 15.8m less songs sold in the first half of 2013, and 9.86bn more songs streamed: 624 new streams for every lost sale.
If you include digital albums in the calculations, there were 20m MORE digital tracks sold in the first half of 2013 alongside those 9.86bn new song streams. And if you include all sales – 10.1m less albums and track-equivalent albums – it works out as 97 new streams for every lost song-sale physically and digitally.
Bear in mind that the US remains a few years behind, say, Sweden – where music industry body GLF announced first-half numbers yesterday.
Total recorded-music revenues rose 12% year-on-year to SEK 499.4m ($76.4m), with digital accounting for 75% of those revenues, and streaming generating 94% of that digital income. Physical sales were down 24% year-on-year and downloads down 20%, but the overall pie grew again, following 2012’s 13.8% rise in Swedish music sales.
So, could be the US in 2014 or 2015? More data is needed to make a confident prediction: for example, dollar revenues for the various categories in the US, as we’re comparing US unit sales to Swedish revenues.
And the question remains about how the new streaming revenues are flowing to different kinds of artists: established acts with big back catalogues versus emerging artists with a single album to their name, for example.
While the GLF and Nielsen figures provide an interesting comparison for streaming’s impact on industry revenues, we’d like to hear more Swedish (and Norwegian) independent musicians coming forward to explain what streaming has meant for their careers so far too.