Sales Are Up, But Still Down

So Why’s Everyone So Happy?

The major record labels are partying like Rock Stars right about now. The reason is because the major labels got a slight bump in sales of albums compared to last year (a 1% increase).

Now if you just started paying attention to the music industry or perhaps you are a caveman recently unfrozen from a really long nap, a 1% increase in sales sounds like a good thing, right?  Well sure it is! The problem lies in the fact that since 2000, album sales have been dropping. Perhaps dropping is too conservative. Let’s say, plummeting.

Chart Courtesy of Digital Music News

Sales are down 69% between 2000 and 2010. Now, the graph (courtesy of Digital Music News) shows that from 2000 to 2003 sales dropped each year. And then in 2004 sales bumped up. And then in 2005 continued their downward trend. So, rhetorically, why are the major labels so happy about a 1% increase and a one year trend?

But the bigger, and more important question, needs continued answering. Why are album sales falling? Could it be that the mainstream radio “sheeple” have woken up and decided to stop shelling out money for unoriginal, degrading, corporate crap? Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The music industry created a genre that needed very little background work done to it in order to make it successful and operational. They created the Mega Pop Star (think Gaga, Perry, Kesha, etc.). Give them something slutty to wear, throw out a repetitive, unoriginal song every now and then and sit back and relax while millions upon millions of dollars roll in. And they’ve been doing this for nearly two decades.

Unfortunately for the major record labels, the world is not static and times, as well as habits, change. Because the music industry decided to stick with what was working instead of planning ahead, they now find themselves in a situation of epic turmoil for a number of reasons:

Why buy a CD when you can get it for free from any number of websites? According to the RIAA 30 billion songs were illegally downloaded between 2004 and 2009. 30 billion times the recording industry has been victimized, and yet they continue to go about life like it’s business as usual.

Quality vs Quantity
For decades the music industry has screwed over its consumers by selling albums that have just one good song to selling albums with only a few total songs, to albums with a bunch of insanely short and crappy songs.

Kelly Ogden - The Dollyrots

The Price
Recently the prices of new CDs have actually dropped from insanely high to moderately high. I don’t mind paying 99¢ for a song when I know that money is going to independent artists like No Island, The Dollyrots, or Reina del Cid. But when I know that money is going into the pockets of the major record labels, the ones to blame for the sad state of affairs the U.S. Music Industry finds itself in, frankly, I can understand why people would rather steal the music.  I don’t condone it, but I certainly understand it.

Online Music Sales
iTunes had their eyes fixed on the future while the recording industry sat on their hands. In the exact same way that the cassette tape fell into oblivion, CDs are following a similar path. Why bother lugging around a box of CDs or having shelves full of CDs when you can have a million songs stored on your computer?  According to Reuters, world online music sales have increased 7% in 2011 to $7.7 billion from $5.9 billion in 2010.

So will CDs be eradicated by online sales and piracy?  The simple answer is no, just like vinyl and cassettes haven’t completely disappeared.  Don’t forget, CDs are still one of the main ways new bands distribute their music to potential new fans at shows.  That being said, we certainly haven’t seen the bottom yet for album sales.

It is pretty certain, however, the major record labels will have to come up with some new scheme if they want to keep their physical album sales from going any lower.

We’re sure you have an opinion on this topic, and we’d love to hear it.  Sound off in the comments below.

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