Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Music sales drop again in 2009


January 7, 2010
Albums by Swift and Boyle Top 2009 Charts, as Sales Continue Plunge

The music industry rounded out a difficult decade with a difficult year.

For the year that ended on Sunday, a total of 373.9 million albums were sold in the United States, according to data from Nielsen SoundScan. That is a 12.7 percent drop from 2008, and a 52 percent fall since 2000, as consumers have continued to turn from CDs to less profitable — and often illegal — forms of digital music.

As sales plunged in the 2000s, music retailers have also taken a severe hit. Since 2004 the HMV, Tower and Virgin chains have all closed their American stores, and Trans World Entertainment, which operates F.Y.E., one of the last remaining music chains, said on Wednesday that it would close 137 of its roughly 700 locations.

Although album sales in 2009 were poor over all, one of the few lights was the close contest for the best-selling album of the year, by two new artists whose success proves that stars can still be made. Taylor Swift, the 20-year-old singer who has been ubiquitous on television and radio, narrowly beat Susan Boyle, the 48-year-old Scot who was unknown before her appearance on a British talent show in April.

Ms. Swift’s “Fearless” (Big Machine), released in November 2008, sold 3.2 million copies last year, and Ms. Boyle’s “I Dreamed a Dream” (Syco Music/Columbia), which came out only six weeks ago, sold 3.1 million. (Since its release, “Fearless” has moved a total of 5.3 million copies.)

“I Dreamed a Dream” was the hit of the 2009 holiday season, holding at No. 1 every week since its release, setting a new Billboard chart record. But “Fearless,” which had the benefit of 10 more months on sale in 2009 — as well as countless more television appearances and magazine covers for Ms. Swift — edged it out by 113,000 copies.

Michael Jackson’s “Number Ones” (Epic) was No. 3 for the year, with 2.4 million sales; “The Fame” (Interscope) by Lady Gaga is No. 4, with slightly more than 2.2 million in 2009 (and 2.4 million since its release in late 2008); and Andrea Bocelli’s “My Christmas” (Sugar Music/Decca), another holiday hit, is close behind at No. 5, with 2.2 million. (The numbers are rounded.)

For the decade, there was another race between young and old. The best-selling artist of the 2000s was Eminem, whose 32.2 million albums sold edged out the Beatles’ 30.2 million. Tim McGraw was the third-best-selling artist of the 2000s, with a total of 24.8 million, followed closely by Toby Keith. Britney Spears was No. 5, at just under 23 million.

The Beatles’ 2000 collection “1” (EMI) was the decade’s most popular title, with 11.5 million.

Despite the success last year of new talents like Ms. Swift, Ms. Boyle and Lady Gaga, a number of albums by major artists fell short of expectations. U2’s latest, “No Line on the Horizon” (Interscope), was released in February and has sold just over one million copies; in 2004 the band’s previous record, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,” sold nearly three times as many within two months.

Albums last year by Mariah Carey, Shakira, R. Kelly, Leona Lewis, 50 Cent and Rihanna are also relative flops so far.


CDs still account for almost 80 percent of all album purchases, but the continuing sales slide has forced record companies to find ways to make money online, said Tom Corson, general manager of the RCA Music Group.

“Sales are one thing, but music usage is through the roof,” Mr. Corson said. “So our challenge is to monetize that and turn it into some kind of legitimate business, rather than file-sharing, burning, etc. We do worry that we’ve lost a generation of consumers who are used to content for free, but there are lots of promising signs.”

Over the last decade numerous new models have emerged to sell music online, with varying levels of success. Apple’s iTunes store opened in 2003 and has sold eight billion songs. Subscription services like Rhapsody and Napster sell monthly subscriptions for access to digital music, as well as MP3s à la carte, and a range of other companies, including MySpace Music and Pandora, stream songs over the Internet. But record companies and financial analysts complain that none of these services make enough money to offset the losses from CDs.

Read the full story HERE.

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