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Album Sales Reach Historic Low, But Music More Popular Than Ever

It's a great time to be a music fan, but what's the effect on the ones creating the music?
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A Billboard story, citing a report by Nielsen Music (formerly SoundScan), says that since the debut of SoundScan in 1991, 2016 (so far) is the worst year on record for album sales. The report states that album sales have dropped 16.9% in the first half of the year, with CD sales continuing to dip at a 11.6% decline.

Interestingly, the most effected sector of music was new album releases, which dropped a whopping 20.2% in sales through the first six months of 2016.

So, what's the good news? The good news is that listening to music, specifically streaming, has never been more popular. Fans have streamed 208.9 billion songs (most of them Drake, we're guessing) so far in 2016, which reflects 139.2 million album sales. Companies continue to invest in streaming services at a rapid pace, talk of one provider acquiring another is constant and record labels have begun to see the power in exclusives as evidenced by recent released through Apple Music (Drake's Views, YG's Still Brazy and Snoop Dogg's Coolaid) and Tidal (Kanye's The Life Of Pablo, Rihanna's Anti and Desiigner's New English). With the proverbial record industry walls finally crumbling in favor of giving fans music how and when they want it, it's truly an exciting time for music fans.

Furthermore, Billboard estimates that total music revenue for 2016 is currently sitting at $1.98 billion, up from $1.82 billion at the same time last year.

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That jump in music revenue, however, is not being felt by the artists creating the music. The numbers clearly indicate that streaming has had an increasingly negative impact on album sales as music fans shift away from ownership to all-you-can consume streaming. This also means that it's more important than ever for recording artists to diversify their revenue streams given the paltry payouts attached to streaming services.

Clearly the move for artists is to forgo album releases altogether and just focus on dropping hit singles, right? Wrong. Only 16 songs this year have sold over 1 million copies, which includes Flo Rida's "My House," a record that was first released last October.

As music sales accelerate more towards being measured by a fraction of a penny rather than twenty dollar CD's, the shift in how people make and distribute their work has resulted in more music available now than ever before. A greater selection and access to music is a treat for fans, but for artists this will provide a unique challenge in the months and years to come, both in generating revenue and standing out from the pack.

By @brokencool, whose first cassette tape was The Fat Boys Crushin'.

Photo Credit: Instagram




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