Each year, I try to pick apart what’s been said and find the facts about the music industry sales, and in recent years it has been a rather sad task. Let’s see if 2014 was any different.
The initial headlines look positive – UK music sales stayed above £1 billion last year, and for the first time on record the top ten artist albums in the UK were all British. But the UK also failed to match Germany’s growth in music revenues, so is any of that relevant?
Downloading is no longer the Next Big Thing
51% of music is now purchased (or streamed) digitally, but downloaded albums dropped to a touch under 30 million copies in 2014. That’s the first time the number has ever fallen, and streaming is quickly rising to take its place with 14.8 billion streams being logged last year, which is why the decision to include streams on the official UK singles chart in July (with albums following a few months later) was long overdue. Incredibly, the total number of streams has doubled every year for the last couple of years, and streaming now accounts for 12.6% of all UK music consumption.
CD sales continue to fall, although the collapse isn’t quite as meteoric as it used to be:
|Year||CD album sales|
How long are albums going to last?
The Guardian spotted the start of a trend this year that albums appear to be disappearing, and the numbers do seem to agree with this. Physical sales fell by 4.9% to £517.3 million, and downloads fell 14.9% to £338.1 million, while streaming revenue grew significantly. Most albums, meanwhile, are stagnating, while only odd individuals continue to do well.
Everybody loves vinyl
A total of 1.3 million vinyl units were purchased in 2014, apparently the highest total for 20 years, although it’s not clear how that breaks down between formats. This article suggests we might just be talking about LPs, and if that’s true then this is pretty significant, as the figure just five years ago was barely a fifth of that. Niche it may still be, but that’s a pretty big niche, with more copies sold than way back in 1996.
The Cassette is Dead, Long Live the Cassette!
Sales figures for music releases don’t appear to be currently available, but Argos reported a 45% increase in tape players last year (admittedly, that could be from 100 to 145) and a Record Store Day survey reported that 10% of “young people” are buying music tapes. The brilliant Cassette Store Day, launched in 2013, continued into its second year.
Still putting a brave face on it
The BPI quietly reported that revenues had dropped by a slight 1.6% in 2014 from the previous year, but failed to mention that this downward spiral has been continuous in recent years, and that annual music revenues are nearly half what they were a decade ago.
On the plus side, the figures don’t appear to have been released, but I suspect revenues from live music continue to offset the losses in ground for recorded music. Here‘s a nice graph which may or may not be relevant, and music industry sources are suggesting that the downward trend may be set to continue.