MediaLog MediaBrief: U.S. Album Sales Hit 10-Year Low

"I'm Surprised Sales Are That High" Dept.--Over the weekend, reports were that U.S. record album sales for the week ending July 23, including digital downloads, hit a ten-year low. Sales that week were down to 8.9 million; the last time weekly record sales were as low was in February 1996.

I have to think that this month's sales low is more grave than the '96 low. That one came in the middle of winter, not too long after the high-water holiday sales period. This new low is in the middle of summer, when teenage music fans (one of the biggest groups of album buyers) are out of school and in summer jobs that give them more disposable income than they might have at other times of the year. I'm not terribly familiar with music industry sales patterns, but such a low under such circumstances at this time of year cannot be a good portent.

Frankly, I'm surprised that overall album sales have not hit lower levels on a more consistent basis. If you separate out digital downloads (the form in which a lot of those teenagers--as well as many others--buy their albums), and Internet retailers, the figure of "hard copy" album sales at traditional retail outlets has got to be at historic lows. Of course, another reason for this is that teenagers and college-age music customers these days are buying fewer and fewer albums period, thanks to the resurgance of single sales in digital form on sites like iTunes.

The music industry continues to disregard the interests and preferences of its customers, as I discussed (in part) in a recent post on why there is not yet an Internet music database similar to the Internet Movie Database. Music companies, if they don't transform their sales, marketing, and legal strategies, should expect that record album sales will continue to plummet.

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