Give customers what they want and they will open their wallets. That seems to be the story behind the newest figures from Nielsen SoundScan, which paint a more positive picture of the music industry than the RIAA’s gloomy prognostications often suggest.
The figures from the first half of this year show that CD sales, not surprisingly, are falling. Compared to the first half of last year, they are down by more than 4 percent. More than making up for that decrease is the tremendous growth in digital downloads. Downloads of complete albums soared by 126 percent, while downloads of individual tracks grew by a mere 77 percent. As you might imagine, individual track downloads still dwarf those of complete albums, lending credence to the theory that the album as an art form is dying.
Oddly enough, the year’s biggest smash comes from the soundtrack to Disney’s TV movie, High School Musical, which has moved 2.6 million copies. And you wonder why marketers target children.
The study can also be used to get a sense of the independent music market. The AP calculates that indie labels control 12.79 percent of the market, while the Hollywood Reporter tots up the figures a bit differently to arrive at 19.3 percent (they include independent distributors which are operated by major labels). Overall, the music industry has actually grown in the last year, selling 0.1 percent more than it did in the first half of 2005. That’s not massive growth, but neither is it the jobs-killing decline that the industry used to moan about a few years ago.
Though the general public is sometimes portrayed as a greedy mass of pirates, the new figures show that the eyepatch-wearing demographic is only one part of the equation. Giving good legal alternatives, consumers are happy to stay legit if that means that they can conveniently cherry-pick digital hits for their own collections.