Even a casual industry observers know that album sales haven't been what they used to be, although some new numbers out from a Nielsen Report reveal that, even in the height of the streaming age, there is still some value in album sales, particularly if you belong to the music industry 1%.
Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0
You’ve heard a lot about the decline of the album, and while there’s still some value there, it continues to [be] less and less of a factor for many artists – unless you’re in the 1%. The annual Nielsen Music Mid-Year Music Industry Report, provides some numbers that illustrate that new reality.
Top 10 Best Sellers
For instance, these are the Top 10 best selling albums for the first half of the year.
1. Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born (Soundtrack) (404,000)
2. Jonas Brothers, Happiness Begins (374,000)
3. Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (343,000)
4. BTS, Map of the Soul: Persona (343,000)
5. Backstreet Boys, DNA (299,000)
6. Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody (Soundtrack) (253,000)
7. Ariana Grande, Thank U, Next (228,000)
8. Soundtrack, The Greatest Showman (181,000)
9. P!nk, Hurts 2B Human (158,000)
10. Lauren Daigle, Look Up Child (154,000)
Keep in mind that these are total sales that include CDs, vinyl and any other format that a consumer can purchase. As you can see, the #1 best seller was only at 404,000 units after 6 months, and that was with a lot of Hollywood-style hype coming from a movie! A big selling album could sell that in a week back in the glory days of physical sales. Still, the numbers show that a CD can still bring in some cash under the right circumstances.
Top 10 Vinyl Sales
Now let’s look at vinyl sales. Here are the top 10 for the first half of the year.
1. Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody (Soundtrack) (61,000)
2. Queen, Greatest Hits (49,000)
3. Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (47,000)
4. Soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 (33,000)
5. The Beatles, Abbey Road (33,000)
6. Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon (32,000)
7. Bob Marley & The Wailers, Legend (30,000)
8. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (29,000)
9. Michael Jackson, Thriller (29,000)
10. Billie Eilish, Don’t Smile at Me (28,000)
In this case, the top sellers presented healthy numbers, but you can’t necessarily say that they will double by the end of the year. Queen sales were helped along by the hype of the Freddie Mercury movie, which has now run its course.
One healthy thing in this Nielsen Music chart is that for once there’s a new hot artist on it, as opposed to being made up of strictly legacy acts. Billie Eilish appears at #3 and 10, but her combined totals are only at 75,000. These do have a chance to double by the end of the year though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she ended up at #1 when we tally the final 2019 numbers.
Top 10 Overall Consumption
Now here’s where it gets tricky. This chart measures the top 10 Overall Equivalent Album Units that takes both the other 2 charts into account, plus streaming. For streaming, 1,500 streams of songs from an album equals 1 album sale.
1. Ariana Grande, Thank U, Next (1,552,800)
2. Billie Eilish, When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (1,304,000)
3. Khalid, Free Spirit (929,000)
4. Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born (Soundtrack) (889,000)
5. A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, Hoodie SZN (810,000)
6. Post Malone, beerbongs & bentleys (756,000)
7. Drake, Scorpion (718,000)
8. Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody (Soundtrack) (705,000)
9. Juice WRLD, Death Race for Love (675,000)
10. Jonas Brothers, Happiness Begins (663,000)
Here it’s a completely new world as the numbers are healthy, but streaming tilts the scales quite a bit.
Equivalent Album Units are so approximate to begin with, since it counts the number of streams that the songs from an album received. Most of those could come from a single song and it would still count towards an Album Unit, so this isn’t the most desirable way to measure how an album is being consumed, but it’s now an industry standard.
So you can see that there’s some life left to the album, at least on the superstar level of the business. On the other hand, I’ve had friends that are baby and mid-line acts tell me that their CD sales were zero to poor on recent tours, so be cautious before you spend you money pressing plastic.