Overall, album sales keep slipping. This has been the reality since the Napster days.
But history has been made this week, with a new all-time low: the No. 1 album this week has the smallest sales of any No. 1 album in the modern era, since Nielsen began tracking sales data in 1991.
The Disney Channel's “Descendants” TV movie soundtrack bowed with 30,000 “pure” album sales, beating the previous sales low of 40,000 (by No. 1 artist Amos Lee and his 2011 “Mission Bell).
In December of 2014, Billboard altered their formula for determining a No. 1 album to incorporate “on-demand streaming and digital track sales” to go toward the No. 1 metric. But even with Spotify streams and the like, “Descendants” still only came in with 42,000 total equivalent units total.
Disney fans still piled in to see the musical “Descendants” on TV, though: it was seen by 10.5 million total viewers in its first four days available.
What else is in the top tier of the Billboard 200 album chart right now? Future's “DS2” (No. 2, 37,000), Taylor Swift's 2014 album “1989” (No. 3, 35,000), Ed Sheeran's 2014 album “X” (No. 4, 30,000), Jill Scott's new “Woman” (No. 5, 27,000) and Sam Hunt's 2014 album “Montevallo” (No. 6, 27,000).
Music: still popular. Album metrics just aren't the reflection of it.