updated 10:55 am EST, Mon December 31, 2007
Music Sales Free-Fall
Music sales during the holidays have dropped by a dramatic extent in 2007, Variety magazine writes. Although a handful of titles such as Josh Groban's Noel have fared well, the overall number of albums sold has dropped from 105.3 to 83.9 million between 2006 and 2007 for the peak holiday shopping period following US Thanksgiving -- a drop of about 21 percent, the publication says. Sales during the last week hit a predicted spike and jumped 42 percent but were still 18 percent down from the year before.
The magazine does not directly assign a cause to the sharp dip in sales but infers that online music is largely responsible for the shift; a report for the week after Christmas is still pending but may reveal how many sales were delayed due to gift cards for iTunes and other online services, though the absence of Christmas albums may affect the result. Commercial music downloads are believed to be a part of the current sales tally compiled by Nielsen SoundScan.
The steep decline is likely confirmation of the impetus behind previous holdouts removing digital rights management (DRM) from songs to boost sales, adds Ars Technica. While EMI took the most aggressive step beginning with its iTunes deal in the spring, it was followed by a Universal Music Group trial of unprotected tracks in August. A previously very vocal opponent to unrestricted music, Warner Music Group, also relented late this month and began offering its catalog in MP3 format through Amazon. To date, Sony BMG has remained the only major label to continually decline selling content without DRM.
None of the labels already selling unprotected music have publicly provided sales statistics for their experimentations with unguarded files, althogh EMI is widely believed to be enjoying higher demand as a result of its decision to side with iTunes while both Universal and Warner have excluded the Apple store in attempts to undermine Apple's relative control of digital music.