The next time you take a trip to your local Best Buy, take a look at the CD section. You will surely notice how compact the section has become, so much that there are only four sections: hip-hop/R&B, rock, miscellaneous and new releases. If you have a keen eye, you will notice that dispersed among the CDs are an abundance of iTunes and Napster cards.
Right now people are witnessing the slow extinction of CDs, just as it happened to the cassette tape, the 8-track and the vinyl record. CD album sales are at an all-time low while digital album sales are on the rise.
According to statistics supplied by Nielsen SoundScan, the first quarter of 2010 compared to 2009 overall album sales were down 7.9 percent. Physical albums were down 14.4 percent while digital albums were up 16 percent. By the second quarter of the year overall album sales were down 14.2 percent. Physical albums were down by 21.3 percent while digital albums were up 11.3 percent. By the middle of the year physical album sales were down a total of 17.9 percent and digital album sales were up 13.7 percent. As a whole, 2010 versus 2009 album sales declined by 12.7 percent.
Even the number one albums on the charts are reaching all-time lows in record sales. According to Billboard, although Taylor Swift’s “Speak Now” remained the number one album for six non-consecutive weeks starting Jan. 22 with only 52,000 copies sold, it was the lowest sales frame for a number one album since Nielsen SoundScan began tacking data in 1991. This record was broken the very next week with Cake’s “Showroom Compassion,” which sold only 44,000 copies.
These statistics now beg the question as to why albums sales are so low and if it is riskier than ever to pursue the music industry. Evidence seems to show that society became a little too computer savvy. There are several outlets in which people can receive the music they want without paying and therefore slide by the Nielsen SoundScan tracking system.
Does this mean that music patrons have turned from their ways? It seems as though they are making it impossible for up-and-coming artists to succeed if the listening audience is no longer supporting them financially.
Despite recent trends, Christopher Gwinn, junior at California Baptist University, has a more optimistic outlook on music sales.
“I have heard and seen the decline in album sales over the years but it does not concern me too much,” Gwinn said. “I know that sales might not be as high as they have been in the past, but the Lord has His hand over my work and my life. He is going to reach the people He wants to reach despite the trends in sales.”
Gwinn recently released his own single on Feb. 1 entitled “Shine.” He was contacted initially by Bravo Records via Facebook saying they had heard one of his songs on YouTube and wanted to sign immediately. The single is now available on iTunes and Amazon.
Releasing music only through online downloading sources may be ideal for up-and-coming artist like Gwinn.
“I do not believe that there is any less of an interest in music,” Gwinn said. “But people are simply finding more convenient ways to get that music.”
Convenience is the ultimate trend now. Statistics show that online downloading resources such as iTunes and Amazon may be making monumental strides toward becoming society’s only way to purchase music.