In a summer that brought “Weird Al” Yankovic, Tom Petty and Wiz Khalifa all their first No. 1 records, the rest of the news has been all bad for album sales.
For the weekend ending Aug. 24, album sales totaled 3.97 million, marking the first time the weekly tally has dropped below 4 million in the 23-year Nielsen SoundScan era, according to Billboard. The same week a year ago, album sales were 4.88 million. There have only been five weeks this year where total album sales surpassed 5 million copies (and I imagine we”ll see it happen again when Taylor Swift”s album comes out in October and possibly when Garth Brooks releases his album around Black Friday).
The culprit is streaming, which many fans do for free on ad-supported outlets, or they pay a low monthly fee, such as $10 to services like Beats Music and Spotify. Digital sales, once considered the savior of the industry, have not proved to be the lifeline many thought they would be.
For the year, album sales in the U.S. are down across the board: physical sales are down 14.6 percent, digital album sales down 11.8 percent, and track-album-equivalent sales are down 12.8 percent.
Billboard analysts reveal that the bottom for the preceding year is usually the next year”s top, so it”s likely that next year, weekly album sales will surpass 4 million a handful of times, but for the majority of the time, they will come in at under 3.9 million and continue to drop.