Sales Analysis – 2013

The BPI has bravely claimed that digital music “surpassed all previous records” in the UK, but sales actually fell significantly this year. Most journalists appear to have been taken in by the hype, and only Gigwise correctly identified the downward trend, attributing it apparently to “a weak release schedule.”

So here are the headlines from the world of sales, downloads, streams, and revenues from the UK music industry in 2013…

The only way is down

Sadly the general trend for 2013 seems to be downwards. Overall singles sales dropped by 2.4% to 182.2 million, while album sales dropped by 6.9% to 94.1 million.

Total trade music revenue was just £1.043 billion, barely half the 2005 figure (apologies for the blanks in this table – the BPI have understandably stopped publishing exact numbers in recent years, so this combines information from them, IFPI, and Music Week).

Year Singles Albums Subscriptions Total
2005 — — — — — — — — — £1,847.2m
2006 — — — — — — — — — £1,634.3m
2007 — — — — — — — — — £1,391.7m
2008 £96.8m £1,164.9m — — — £1,352.7m
2009 £127.4m £1,128.7m — — — £1.343.2m
2010 £138.9m £1,009.2m — — — £1.236.5m
2011 — — — — — — — — — £1.168.5m
2012 £170.5m £800.8m £77m £1,048.4m
2013 £167.8m £772.1m £103m £1,043.0m

It might be rather harder to put a positive spin on those numbers, unfortunately. Only one of them is going up, and even then only very slightly.

CD albums are still the format of choice

Amazingly, even now, several years after the CD was supposed to have died, nearly two thirds of UK album sales are still on CD. CD album sales dropped by nearly nine million last year, while downloads climbed by two million, putting total album sales at their lowest level for a very long time – very probably since the early 1990s at least.

The age of downloading is nearly over

After hitting an astonishing peak in 2012, downloads of singles fell last year, taking them back to below 2011 levels:

Year Single Downloads Album Downloads
2003 400
2004 5,759,808
2005 25,006,018
2006 53,017,000 2,799,000
2007 77,956,000 6,249,000
2008 110,274,000 10,308,681
2009 149,652,000 16,096,243
2010 159,734,249 21,023,066
2011 176,654,700 26,615,000
2012 187,845,600 30,500,000
2013 175,600,000 32,600,000

Could this just be a temporary blip, or are we about to see the death of downloads? Well, if I could be permitted a brief claim of clairvoyance, I predicted last year that streaming was the future, and sure enough, 2012 saw streams double to an incredible 7.4 billion tracks, earning the music industry over £100 million alone.

Which is all good and very exciting, but unfortunately as we all know, musicians don’t really earn anything worth writing home about from music streaming, and unless it can renegotiate the whole streaming model, the music industry is likely to continue to struggle for the time being. Still, at least illegal downloading is probably killing itself off…

The vinyl revolution really is A Thing

I was slightly scornful of the claims that vinyl sales were exploding, but the hype seems to actually be having an effect. LP sales doubled to 781,000 last year, while 7″ sales increased by 34% to 129,000, which isn’t a lot less than the 179,000 which were sold in 2001. 12″ singles increased by 60% to 88,000, their highest level since 2009.

The BPI’s press release of sales trends was also reported by BBC News and Music Times. For further reading, the Music Industry blog has some interesting analysis on the potential impact of streaming.

If you missed the links above, you can read my analysis of 2012 here.


4 thoughts on “Sales Analysis – 2013

  1. Pingback: Sales Analysis – 2014 | Music for stowaways

  2. Pingback: Sales Analysis – 2015 | Music for stowaways

  3. Pingback: Sales Analysis – 2016 | Music for stowaways

  4. Pingback: Sales Analysis – 2017 | Music for stowaways

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