Nielsen released their mid year 2015 report this past week, and the results are looking positive for the most part. Overall music consumption has increased 14% year to year. This includes all physical and digital copies sold as well as streaming.
Streaming increased 74% with about 139 billion songs streamed. This is not a huge surprise—with the success of Spotify and Pandora, as well as the addition of Apple Music and Tidal, streaming is becoming a mainstream platform for music consumption.
A large issue with streaming, however, is how it’s tracked. Since the advent of the digital single, the industry has had to create new standards for album sales to compensate. Ten digital singles sold is the equivalent to one album sold. This makes sense; a typical album has around 10 songs.
However, the streaming model is a lot tougher. 1 album sale is equal to 1500 streams. Though it can be agreed that more streams should account for 1 album sale, can you remember the last time you listened to an album you purchased 150 times? It feels a bit excessive. In turn, could this mean that stream sales are miscalculated and underreported?
Streaming isn’t the only positive report. Vinyl has shot up in sales, increasing 38% in the past year. Why is this outdated technology making a comeback? With vinyl showing up in stores such as Urban Outfitters and Tilly’s, it seems that purchasing vinyl is becoming more of a “trendy” hobby. Additionally, the support of Record Store Day makes a huge difference, giving independent stores a 0.6% bump in sales. Meanwhile, chain and mass merchants are down.
This doesn’t mean there aren’t parts that are suffering. Overall album sales are down in total, with a 10% decrease in CD sales and 0.1% decrease in digital downloads. Only one album has broken 1 million sold this year: Taylor Swift’s 1989 has once again sold another million, making the total sales exceed 4 million.
Though the mid-year report gave some promising statistics, the model isn’t completely stable. The freemium model is a huge disadvantage to both artists and labels. Taylor Swift’s letter to Apple Music last week certainly helped, but how long will this streaming model last until the industry finds something more stable? Only time will tell.