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Downloads up as album sales drop

January 7, 2010

According to the BBC, UK album sales continued to decline in 2009 although downloads were up.

Statistics released by trade body the BPI showed overall album sales dropped by 3.5% in 2009 to 128.9 million, the fifth year in a row they have fallen. The fall was partly offset by a 56.1% rise in album downloads to 16.1 million, now accounting for one in eight sold.

What amazes me is that they continue to be surprised by this and continue to whine about it. The way people access and use music has changed but they still won’t accept this. They still won’t adapt to the fact that the new music economy will not have the massively overinflated profit harvest that the industry has reaped for the last 40 years.

Singles sales increased by 32.7% to a record 152 million during 2009, with 98% of those being digital downloads. People are clearly buying individual tracks rather than albums, yet the big four labels continue to bitch and moan.

Why don’t they like this? Could it be because when you can buy only the good tracks, you don’t buy the filler dross they’ve churned out for decades? People finally have a choice about what they listen to, rather than it being dictated to us by an industry run by beancounters rather than music fans.

The article says this:

However, downloads are not generally as profitable to the industry as physical products. And despite the healthy state of singles sales, these do not usually generate significant profits for record companies, who look to album sales to recoup the investments they make in up-and-coming bands and singers.

Holy crapola! Downloads less profitable? How can that be? It costs zip to put a tune online (it costs us about $20 to put a full album on ALL the main download sites for a year – we sell literally about four albums and our costs are covered) but it costs an actual amount of money to press up CDs, print covers and physically distribute them around the country. As an American would say: ‘Do the math(s)’.

As for looking to album sales to ‘recoup investments in up-and-coming bands’….A traditional record deal is that all development costs and all marketing and promotion costs are recouped from the artist’s share of any royalties earned. The record company pays for nothing if the artist has any success.

The article finishes:

Kim Bayley, director general of the Entertainment Retailers Association, said: ‘2009 started on a low note after the collapse of Woolworths and Zavvi, but entertainment retailers across the board worked with their suppliers to end the year with a far better result than anyone had expected.’

I fully expect another year of the record industry whinging about poor sales and about ‘illegal filesharing’ stealing their rightful profits, however.

How about this, record industry people: Provide consistently good, creative music at sensible prices, with no DRM and easily accessible. Accept that the glory days of your monopoly over supply of music are gone. Stop attacking music fans. Your business will survive just fine. Or maybe it deserves to die anyway because of its lack of imagination and its greed.

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