Last week’s album sales were the lowest recorded since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking album sales in 1991. At 3.97 million, it’s also the first time the number of weekly album sales has dipped below the 4 million mark.
Since last year, the number of album sales has been steadily dropping each quarter, totaling a 14.6% decline. Digital and track sales are also declining, dropping 11.7% and 12.8% respectively.
Multiple factors contributed to last week’s all time low: the top album, Wiz Khalifa’s Blacc Hollywood only sold 90,000 units (a figure below other top album releases this year), three other top 10 albums only sold 31,000 units a piece, and the year’s topselling soundtrack to Frozen has finally dropped from selling over 100,000 a week.
“Streaming is cannibalizing digital sales,” Billboard concludes. Some say streaming revenue has compensated for the loss; however, not all are in agreement, nor have all been affected equally. CD sales from mass merchants and chains are down by over 23% for the year.
One indie distribution executive described the problem as widespread, saying that many companies are falling behind on their revenue projections, which he believes is largely because “this year the bottom fell out of digital sales to a degree that we never anticipated.”
This trend just reiterates the need to for artists and labels to diversify their revenue streams and not rely so heavily on physical or digital sales. Audiences are becoming accustomed to renting their music rather than buying it, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.