Friday, January 8, 2010

Record sales, record sales (last year and last decade)

The final tallies are in for 2009. And man did we buy a ton of music.

Last year, we made 1.545 billion purchases of music (up 2.1 percent from 2008), which includes everything from vinyl albums in your record store to digital downloads from Twitter. That, my friends, is a record.

The most impressive number in this report (lots of numbers in it... lots of numbers) to me is vinyl album sales. Last year, 2.5 million were purchased (another record), an increase of 33 percent.

I have to say that I buy pretty much all of my new music on vinyl any more (if I can find it). The reason? For a few bucks more, I get an LP and a digital download or CD. Why not have it as many formats as I can for a little more expense (and sometimes the same price).

In 2010, I don't know if vinyl will have another increase the size of the last two years, but I bet it will keep going up as more people buy turntables (especially the USB sort that will transfer your records to your computer).

The thing that is interesting to me is who sold a lot of vinyl. The top five are Radiohead, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Metallica and Wilco. Considering only one of those bands (Wilco) put out a new album this year, that's very interesting.

People just aren't buying new records on vinyl as much as they're picking up the old titles. Look at the top 10 vinyl albums: Out of those 10, six were new records. The other were all catalog titles ("Abbey Road," "Thriller, "In Rainbows" and "Appetite for Destruction").

As predicted, digital sales went up, physical sales went down and sales of albums (that's full albums, be it digital or not) dropped.

This is a sign of people buying the singles, not the record. And most of them are being purchased digitally, obviously. I do it too. Usually, I like hearing the whole album, but with Flo Rida, I'm just not going to fork over that much money when the only song I'm going to end up listening to is "Right Round" anyway.

Your big winners this year were Taylor Swift, Susan Boyle, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Andrea Bocelli, The Beatles, Miley Cyrus, the Black Eyed Peas, Eminem, Jay-Z, the Kings of Leon, Carrie Underwood and Michael Buble. They each sold millions of albums, digital singles, etc.

Michael Jackson had a good year. I mean, as far as selling records is concerned. He sold more than 8.2 million. Taylor Swift (last year's best-selling artist) had another good year, coming in at No. 2 with more than 4.6 million sold.

* * *

Included in these same numbers were more numbers about the decade.

"Beatles 1" was the best-selling album. Eminem (this surprised me) was the best-selling artist, followed by the Beatles. Sadly, the most-played song was Nickelback's "How You Remind Me."

And the most-played artist was Tim McGraw. A side-note: country radio is a force to be reckoned with, folks. Out of the top 10, the only non-country artists on this list were Nickelback and Green Day. Seriously.

Also interesting is a handy graphic they included that shows while album sales steadily dropped, overall sales (bolstered by individual track sales) went up and up and up.

The incline in the chart starts in 2003-04, not coincidentally the same time that the iTunes store went live (April 28, 2003). Check out the chart below:

Weird factoid: 3 percent of albums purchased in the aughts were cassettes. That's more than 181 million cassettes, which are now likely collecting dust.

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