Bad News for US Music Industry: Digital Music Sales See Decline for the First Time

Remember how we were told that sales of digital music was going to pick up the slack from falling CD sales?  That will happen–but there’s bound to be a few bumps long the way.  Like 2013.

For the first time since iTunes opened for business on January 9, 2001–13 years ago–the US music industry has seen a decrease in the sales of digital music.  Billboard reports:

While the digital track sales decline had been expected due to weaker sales in the first three quarters, the digital album downturn comes as more of a surprise as the album bundle had started out the year with a strong first quarter.Overall for the full year 2013, digital track sales fell 5.7% from 1.34 billion units to 1.26 billion units while digital album sales fell 0.1% to 117.6 million units from the previous year’s total of 117.7 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

While industry executives initially refused to attribute the early signs this year of digital sales weakness to the consumer’s growing appetite for streaming, in the second half of the year many were conceding that ad-supported and paid subscription services were indeed cannibalizing digital sales.

In Canada, it’s a little different.  Year-over-year digital sales are up marginally–but that might be attributable to the fact that we haven’t adopted streaming music services to the same extent as the US.  We, for example, still don’t have access to the two biggest players, Pandora and Spotify.

Read the rest of the Billboard report here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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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