A final look at Canadian music sales and streaming stats for 2019

Every week I report on how well music is selling and streaming using data supplied by Nielsen Canada. Time to break everything down for the year.

Physical album sales stink

Things stepped off a cliff, if I’m honest. In 2019, exactly 6,334,538 albums (CDs, vinyl, and whatever pre-recorded cassettes people bought) were sold across Canada, a drop of 22.3% from 2018. Of that number, CDs accounted for 5,349,257 sales, which is off 25.7% from the previous year. The chances of five million discs selling in 2020 are very, very, very slim.

Digital sales even worse

Remember before streaming took off? The industry was confident that physical sales would be replaced by digital albums and single-track downloads. But then Spotify et al came along and destroyed that notion forever. Digital album sales were down 24% while digital tracks were down 28%.

But you won’t hear the labels crying about this because the revenues from streaming are insane. They wouldn’t mind if CDs disappeared entirely tomorrow. No more manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, collection…

Vinyl remains very much a thing

No double-digit growth this year, but Canadians did buy 973,891 pieces of brand new vinyl, an increase of 3.1% from last year. That’s a healthy 15% of the total number of albums sold. Expect vinyl sales to eclipse the 1 million mark in 2020, something that hasn’t happened in, like, forever.

Keep in mind, too, that the number for vinyl doesn’t include used sales: record shops, record stores, online, etc.

There is no cassette revolution

Stop it. People aren’t buying cassettes in the way some media reports say. The numbers are so insignificant (less than 10,000 for the entire year across the country) that Nielsen stopped breaking out those numbers.

It’s all about streaming now

On-demand audio streaming rose 32% in 2020 while video streaming screamed ahead by 63%. To put it another way, Canadian accessed song streams 2,152,627,253 in 2019, up from about 1.7 billion in 2018.

The Martimes saw the biggest drop in music sales in 2019

The worst region for music sales in 2019 was the Atlantic Canada where people bought 32% less music. BC was the best region where sales were “only” down by 20%.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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