Music Industry

Canadian CD sales dropped 87%(!!!) in one week.

Selling music has been a challenge for years now, but with COVID-19 causing massive disruption, a bad situation is getting worse. Nielsen Music Canada reports on where things stand in 2020 vs. where they were a year ago.

  • Total album sales, -34.0%
  • CDs, down 41.30%(!!!) and down an insane 83.6% from last week.
  • Digital albums, down 27.1%
  • Digital tracks, down 29.5%
  • Vinyl, down 22.4%
  • “Other” (music DVDs and cassettes), down 39.4% (Only 1,678 units have been sold all year.)

After a dip early in the crisis, on-demand audio streams are on the way back up. Compared to last year, listening is up 17.5% and up 2.4% from last week. (1.559 billion steams in the country last week).

Looking across the country, Alberta has seen the greatest drop in album sales (-41.4%) follwed by Quebec (-37.7%), and New Brunswick (-31.6%). Ontario is faring the best with a drop of “only” by 26.2%.

But it’s not all bad. Once you crunch the numbers using the industry-standard TEA (Track Equivalent Albums measurement where 1500 streams from one album equals the sale of one unit), things are actually up by 2.6% over last year. That’s something, right?

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.

Alan Cross has 38011 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

3 thoughts on “Canadian CD sales dropped 87%(!!!) in one week.

  • Count me among the people still buying CDs. I ordered seven over the weekend. In fact, I’m always on the lookout for Canadian retailers, preferably online right now. If you know of any, I’d love to check them out.

    I’ve invested too much time, money and effort to build up my collection (sitting on 1600). I need to have something tangible in my hand. I want to read liner notes. I want the lyrics. I want the artwork. Streaming only offers a portion of the music listening experience, in my opinion.


    • Well said! Although I can’t see the darned liner notes anymore even with my reading glasses on. Sure, I could use the magnifier on my phone but that turns something pleasurable into the tedious.

      I buy the vast majority of my music at shows so what I’m doing instead is when I get an e-mail from a band or about a show that I was going to go to, I’ll go to the bands website and spend something there. I just picked up a gem on Discogs. It’s the Alarm Live in ’85 for Strength. (if it says 85-86, it’s been remixed). The band is streaming it (at all streaming locations? I have no idea what that means. I’m a geeky luddite.) tomorrow. I watched an awesome clip of them way back at a UCLA show. Their clothing and hair would leave anyone feeling a bit abashed but the crowd loved them and for good reason. Mike Peters is a god among men. He is just an impressive fellow.

      Here’s a link to the info on the streaming tomorrow:

      • I go to Discogs a lot. Thanks to their marketplace, I’ve picked up tons of singles from Radiohead, Bloc Party and U2. The shipping costs can be high as most CDs come from Europe, but I think it’s worth it.

        I do try to pick up as much music as I can from shows too.

        We have some used shops in town, though none of them are open at the moment (serious withdrawal going on here). I do like Sunrise. I tend to find lots in the bargain bins there. I recently found two Queensryche reissues there at $5 each. Ebay and Amazon are fine places to find music. I’d love to support more local retailers if possible.

        Band web sites can definitely be handy. I was looking to fill out my Rush collection. I went to the site, only to notice that their prices are all in US dollars! Shame on me for not having them in the first place, I guess.

        I think the tangible part will remain important to me. I’d like to pass on my collection to my kids, just as my father did with me.

        I’ll check out the Alarm. Thanks for the tip!


Let us know what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.