US Music Sales Are Collapsing

U.S. album sales totaled 4.68 million this week, the lowest print in Nielsen Soundscan history,
Billboard’s Ed Christman reports.

This comes as digital sales are off -2.3% YTD, and fell -3.3% in Q2.

Christman says there have already been nine weeks this year with 5 million or fewer in album sales, and the industry has gone sub-5 million.

Christman says the biggest hit is coming from back-catalogue sales, which are off -8.8%. Physical CD sales are also way down at -14.1%.

But the big question for labels is whether streaming is cannibalising music sales. Christman:

More recently, some industry executives began changing their tune about the possibility of streaming cannibalization after they saw digital song sales decline more in the second quarter than in the first at the same time that digital album sales slowed (see our mid-year Nielsen SoundScan report). Analysts have not yet found a way to measure cannibalization and are looking for new ways to measure whether or not it is occurring. As one analyst put it, just because he couldn’t prove cannibalization through analysis, he couldn’t definitively say it’s not happening.

Another confounding element is that digital downloads of current songs are up 1.4%.

Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience” remains the best-selling album YTD at more than 2 million copies as of July 6.

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