Growing Anxiety Over Shrinking Digital Music Sales

Remember when CD sales started to go off a cliff?  “Don’t worry,” analysts said, “Sales of digital tracks are growing exponentially.  It’s just a matter of time before they make up the difference.”

But here we are at the end of 2013 and those predictions have not come true.  In fact, digital sales–albums and individual tracks–are slowing.  In the US, fewer digital tracks were sold in 2013 than in 2012.  What’s happening? Music streaming services, for one. FastCoLabs takes a look.

It’s official: We’re buying less digital music. Just like vinyl, cassettes, and CDs before it, the digital download may have reached it peak, with total sales dropping 4% from last year. The culprit? It’s complicated, but expect the already-raging debate over Spotify, streaming, and the future of music distribution to heat up.Here’s a breakdown. In the first half of this year, U.S. music fans paid for 25-30 million digital tracks per week, according toBillboard. In October and November, that number dipped below 20 million. Billboard blames “a web of interrelated stories that show new technologies affecting consumer behavior” for the decline, with the most obvious culprit being that little green and black icon on your home screen.

Spotify, the frontrunner in the growing all-you-can-stream music subscription space, is already the source of ongoing controversy within the music industry. With the news that paid downloads are starting to erode, the anti-streaming rhetoric will likely heat up even further. That’s because of longstanding anxieties over the economic viability of the streaming model and whether or not artists can get a fair payout from the arrangement.

Keep reading here.  You’ll see why stakeholders in the Canadian music industry aren’t interested in rolling over for companies like Spotify and Pandora.

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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