updated 11:05 pm EST, Wed January 4, 2012
US music sees digital finally overcome analog drop
US album sales have grown for the first time in seven years, Nielsen Soundscan reported Wednesday. A three percent increase to 458 million albums in 2011 was helped by digital sales from iTunes and other sources jumping by 20 percent, to 103 million, overcoming a six percent drop in CD sales to 225 million. Single songs themselves grew faster, up nine percent to 1.27 billion songs.
Researchers pinned the increase on a string of successful albums. British singer Adele's 21 (5.8 million copies), Canadian Michael Bublé's Christmas (2.5 million), and Lady Gaga's Born This Way (2.1 million) all fueled demand. Classic albums and promos, including a 99-cent Amazon album sale, helped saturate the market. Even Adele's 19 at 856,000 copies contributed, Nielsen said.
Apple typically gets about two thirds of the Internet music market in the US, according to historic NPD data. Subscription services like Rdio, Slacker, or Spotify weren't counted in Nielsen's study.
Senior analytics VP David Bakula went on to predict that the increase wasn't a singular result. The rise of smartphones and tablets made downloads more important, he said. Google Music also gave Google a consistent place to sell music to Android users.
Higher music sales are in contrast to a UK decline and deflate arguments from the RIAA and other music label supporters of SOPA that the proposed bill is necessary. The label alliance and other supporters have contended that the ability to quickly request a takedown of a whole site, even if just a small piece of that site was violating copyright, was absolutely necessary to curb a perceived wave of piracy. With legal, paid downloads now rescuing music sales, industry representatives can't point to decreasing music business as a pretext for the bill.