2014 – Burying the CD
My music knowledge is above average. I know a little about a lot and have a decent finger on the pulse of today’s music. I’m by no means an expert but I do know that the internet has changed the way music is delivered to the public’s ear. Applications and software like Spotify, Pandora, Youtube, and Itunes have decimated album sales and a new way of identifying popularity should be put in place. Views and listens should dominate instead of album sales.
The top selling album in 2013 was Justin Timberlakes “20/20 Experience” which sold 2.43 million copies. This was the lowest total in the 22 years since Soundscan has been tracking sales. When I first read this number I wondered what was the breakdown of what is considered an album sale. The answer is that vinyl is 2% of album sales in the U.S; digital albums comprise 40.6% and the CD is 57.2%. Digital sales dropped for the first time EVER in 2013. More info on the music industry of 2013 can be found in this Billboard year end review. This isn’t surprising considering the aforementioned apps are delivering music on a subscription basis and eliminating album sales. Why would you buy an album for 10 dollars when you can get a month of Spotify and listen to a million times more music for a month?
Let’s time travel back to the year 2000. Can you guess the #1 selling album and how many units it sold? N’ Sync was the hottest boy band and said Bye Bye Bye to the 9 million CD’s sold mark. This was the tip of the iceberg when it came to CD sales for a single year. The best selling album of all-time is Michael Jackson’s Thriller and it has moved 51-65 million copies. These numbers are staggering when compared to the pathetic 2.4 million copies the best selling album of 2013 sold. With these current numbers being so out of touch with reality, the system must be changed to downloads and listens.
2014 – All Hail Spotify and Youtube
Spotify and YouTube are the best ways to listen to music currently. Spotify’s catalog is insanely big and they have new music updated quicker then you can run to the store and get it. YouTube is still the premier place to display new music in video format. Everything else should be considered secondary. I’ll add a quick footnote that ITunes tracks downloads and I assume this is an OK measure but it isn’t free so why you’d pay for a single or album download, I have no idea. The smartest music listeners pay a monthly subscription to Spotify to listen to their music. You can listen to any song, any time, any device.
Therefore, Spotify listens and Youtube views should be a new music standard. The songs should have a cumulative number and that should be the new ranking. Fuck album sales. No one gives a shit that the Frozen Soundtrack has moved 2.3 million units when compared to the astronomical number of listens and views. What is far more interesting is that Katy Perry’s Dark Horse has 270 million YouTube views and 113 million Spotify listens. The problem is that I can’t find who is tracking this information on a week by week basis. I can see total views, but let’s get a count of this on a week by week to really understand what music is being listened to. Someone needs to do this! Rolling Stone, read this post and start finding a way to track these two networks and publish this info. Far and away better than album sales.
You may also have interest in this article I wrote last year about the most popular artists at the end of 2013.