2013’s lackluster music sales: The winners and losers

01.03.14 5 years ago
How did you listen to music in 2013? If you opted for Spotify, YouTube and other streaming services, you’re part of a big shift in 2013’s music sales.
The music industry number crunchers at Nielsen SoundScan just released its final sales totals for 2013 and it wasn’t a banner year, with smaller year-end numbers for top selling artists and overall album sales down 8.4%. But among the winners were new technologies, a physical format that’s been around for 100 years and an artist who outsmarted the system.
LOSER: Digital music sales
For the first time since the launch of Apple”s iTunes store in 2003, U.S. digital music sales declined in 2013. The purchase of individual tracks took the biggest hit, with a dip of 6% from 2012’s 1.34 billion to 1.26 billion in 2013. So how are people getting these songs…
WINNER: Streaming services
Spotify, YouTube, Rhapsody and other online services had more than 50 billion audio and video streams in just the first six months of 2013, according to SoundScan’s mid-year report. SoundScan has not yet released its year-end streaming numbers, but industry executives expect them to reveal that people are listening for free or with an annual subscription fee rather than buying an MP3.
LOSER: Chain stores
While non-traditional music sellers such as Amazon and Starbucks enjoyed a sales boost of 2.4% (36.5 million albums), big box retailers like Best Buy saw a decline in sales by nearly 20% (39 million albums).
Vinyl record sales have been steadily increasing for the past six years, this year up 33% (6.1 million from 2012’s 4.55 million). Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” was the top selling vinyl release of the year with 49,000 copies sold. Vinyl now accounts for 2% of all album sales in the U.S.
LOSER: Every artist who hoped to sell more than 2 million albums and isn’t Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience” was the top selling album of 2013 and the only one to sell more than 2 million copies this past year. At 2.43 million copies sold, “20/20” marks the smallest-selling year-end No. 1 album since 1991, the year SoundScan began tracking music sales. In comparison, Adele’s top 2012 album “21” sold 4.41 million copies.
WINNER: Hip-hop
R&B, which includes rap albums, was the only genre that had an increase in sales this past year, growing 1.2% with 50.7 million units, up from 50.1 million in 2012. Rap duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis” had the year’s second-biggest selling song with “Thrift Shop” (6.15 million), just after Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” featuring Pharrell and T.I., which earned the top spot with 6.5 million. Two hip-hop artists — Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis — are nominated for a Grammy Album of the Year
WINNERS: Beyonce and Jay Z
Beyonce’s surprise, self-titled album was the juggernaut of 2013, ending the year with 1.3 million copies sold and ranking No. 8 overall after being released on Dec. 14. “Beyonce” is also 2013’s best selling album by a woman, the biggest-selling debut by any female artist last year and the fastest-selling album ever in the iTunes store. Her hubby Jay Z came in at No. 10 for “Magna Carta…Holy Grail” (1.1 million). It’s the first time since SoundScan began tracking album sales that a husband and wife have separately scored albums in the year-end top 10.

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