Here we are with our usual comments on the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) year-end report on music sales in the USA. Of course, they've just released the 2010 data. The report makes the usual clear distinction between liquid music sales (i.e. downloads) and physical media (CDs, LPs, DVDs etc.).
If interested, you can download the integral report (PDF file) directly from the RIAA official website.
The statistics RIAA publishes are, as usual, related to the US market only but still give a precise idea of what's going on in the music market globally. The data compare what happened in 2010, with respect to 2009. 2011 statistics will be available slightly before Summer 2012.
Let's take a close look at the numbers (as they don't lie!). The obvious fact is that the trend we've been observing since the last five years is confirmed: physical media sales go down (globally) while music downloads go up rapidly (-21.8% and +2.3% respectively). What's impressive is the drop of the total number of units shipped (this includes EVERY kind of media, physical or not): -6.8% is a frightening percentage (was -3.5% last year). This means people bought less Music, a possible side-effect of the global financial crisis. What's worse is the drop of the so-called total value (i.e. amount of money involved) as this becomes -10.9% (was -12.3% last year): Music is less expensive but customers seem not interested in buying it. Illegal download certainly plays a crucial role here.
Analyzing this report a little bit more deeply we discover that the liquid Music section is still growing (+2.1% for singles download, +8.8% for albums dowmload!) while mobile phones ringtones market has lost more than another ¼ of its 2009 value (-27.9%!). The so-called subscriptions and digital performance royalties (these include payments to performers and copyright holders for webcasting, satellite radio, and other non-interactive digital music services) increased substantially: +29.9% and +60.3% respectively.
Summarizing, people seem to prefer complete albums to hit singles. Or, perhaps, illegal download affects singles sales more than album sales.
And now get ready for the saddest part of the RIAA report, the physical media section! As said, the drop has been around -21.8% but it is interesting to investigate how different physical media performed: CD sales continue to go down quickly at -22.9% (was -20.5%) while vinyl grows at quite a fast pace: +25.9% (was +10.8%). Of course, in terms of absolute figures vinyl sales are still very far from CD sales (4 millions of units against 225 millions) but the trend we've been observing during the last years is confirmed once again and vinyl sales, even in absolute terms, are becoming a no longer negligible phenomenon. Overall, customers spent $87 millions in vinyl titles and this is the highest level reached since 1990!
This is why we are skeptical about the commercial decision, taken by JVC Music, to publish 10 new titles in a "new" (quotation marks are mandatory!) CD format (see our previous editorial).
Now, let's compare liquid vs physical sales figures: physical media account for 53% of the grand total while digital are 47%. Last year we had 59% versus 41%. Looking back at the past years...it was 16% against 84% in 2006, 23% against 77% in 2007 and 34% against 66% in 2008. It is becoming harder and harder to claim liquid music isn't here to stay, as too many audiophiles seem to believe.
Which are the conclusions, then? Well, liquid music will continue to grow (despite huge amounts of illegal download!) while music fans (and audiophiles?) with the need of a physical media will turn their attention to vinyl (that we love so much).
Will we do as Coldplay sing in their latest hit? (for a higher quality version go to Youtube)
I turn the music up, I got my records on I shut the world outside until the lights come on
In case video embedding doesn't work, search for Coldplay's "Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall" on YouTube (link points directly to the video above).
© Copyright 2011 Lucio Cadeddu - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.tnt-audio.com