Album sales deteriorate further as streaming continues disrupting

blue music 300wBillboard reported on weekly album sales today from Soundscan, noting benchmark low performance, and identifying long-term trends. They key bullet point is 3.97-million units sold in the latest reporting week — the first time album sales have dipped under 4-million.

The report itemizes benchmarks from last year, when average weekly sales crossed below 5-million in the third quarter. This year, the quarterly averages are 4.75-million (Q1) and 4.55-million (Q2). Tellingly, the 5-million floor that existed for album sales in the first half of 2013 has become a rarely-approached ceiling in 2014. Billboard makes a trendline prediction that in 2015, weekly sales will drift in the 3-4 million range.

Weekly Soundscan numbers do not correlate to streaming metrics or the potential displacement of ownership by access. But that corollary trend is documented in longer-term reports by the RIAA and IFPI. Just this week, one branch of the IFPI released a year-over-year comparison of streaming and purchasing in one market — Denmark — indicating a clear pattern of the former replacing the latter.

Brad Hill