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Women Dominate Music Sales

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Move over boys, the girls are back in town.

For the first time since 1985, when the music industry began tracking buying habits by gender, women are now shelling out more cash for CDs, tapes, and records than men.

For some, the culmination of a decade-long trend signals a watershed for the male-dominated music industry and American culture as a whole. From Celine Dion's "Titanic" theme song to Shawn Colvin's dominance at the Grammy awards this year, women have taken center stage, becoming the taste-makers of a kinder, gentler music. The angry, hard-rockers like Nine Inch Nails are having to make room for the peppy pop of the Spice Girls.

Some argue that a fickle public may alter this trend at any moment. But for now, the industry's high notes are being hit by women. And female consumers like what they hear.

"I think the whole industry is changing - it's finally gotten the message that women like certain things, they want a certain kind of music and they're putting it out there," says Carole Williams, a briefcase-toting social worker flipping through CDs at HMV Records in New York City.

"Now that I've gotten over my anger at the high price of CDs compared to LPs, I'm buying more," she says.

Ms. Williams's view is embodied in the recently released annual survey by the Recording Industry Association of America. It found that women music buyers outnumbered men by 51 to 49 percent. Ten years ago, men were at the top, 57 to 43 percent.

But others see the phenomenon as nothing more than a cresting wave in an ever-changing popular culture, where the bottom line - profits for the record companies - remains the only constant.

"Young women have always been a main buying demographic in the music business," says David Leach, executive vice president of Mercury Records Group, a division of the international music giant Polygram. "At certain times there happens to be more product and more music that strikes a nerve with them; this just happens to be one."


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