Five surprises for the music industry in 2009
From a decade-end sales spurt to the resurgence of vinyl, 2009 had some surprises - and good news - for the beleaguered music industry.
Following years of lost revenue from illegal file sharing, the recording industry finally has a reason to cheer: unit sales rose in 2009 for the second year in a row, up by 1.54 billion in 2009, a 2.1 percent increase from the previous year.
About 40 percent of those sales were digital, Nielsen SoundScan says in its year-end report, up from 32 percent in 2008. Thatâ€™s might seem like a no-brainer considering how consumers interact with music today via MP3 players and computers. Here are some less obvious trends:
â€˘ Vinyl continues to spin. Remember those black discs? When the industry first started phasing them out for CDs in the mid-1990s, vinyl records were thought to be going the way of the 8-track tape. Not any more. A new generation of enthusiasts is responsible for rising vinyl sales. Nielsen SoundScan reports that vinyl sales grew 33 percent in 2009 from the previous year, an all-time sales record for the format.
â€˘ Michael Jackson lives on in his music. By the second half of his career, Mr. Jackson had become more of a tabloid star and his music sales had slipped accordingly. Jackson is not on Nielsen SoundScanâ€™s bestsellers list (which dates back to 1991), but after his death in 2009, Jackson's albums sold over eight million copies â€“ twice as much as reigning teen star, Taylor Swift, making Jackson the biggest-selling artist for the year.
â€˘ The Beatles are back. The Fab Four broke up in 1970, but with almost 3.3 million in album sales, the Beatles were the biggest-selling group of 2009. They also had the top selling album of the decade with â€śBeatles 1,â€ť a best-of collection that sold nearly 12 million copies. Rapper Eminem was the best-selling artist of the decade with 32.2 million units sold, and the Beatles were right behind with 30 million units.
â€˘ Country is king. Even though country music was the fourth-highest selling music category in terms of album sales (following alternative, Christian/gospel, and classical), country music stars dominated the last decade. Eight of the top 10 most-played artists of the decade â€“ on radio, TV, or the Internet â€“ were country stars. Taylor Swift's "Fearless" was the biggest-selling album of 2009.
â€˘ Starbucks is saving music retail. Mass shuttering of Tower Records and Virgin Megastores outlets are making it harder to purchase a CD, but the slack has been taken up by non-traditional outlets such as Starbucks and CVS. Sales at these alternate outlets reached an all-time high in 2009 with 110 million units sold, accounting for about 30 percent of all album sales. Non-traditional outlets were the only retail segment to see growth in music sales, compared with losses at mass merchant stores, chain outlets, and independent music stores.
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