An Interesting Look at the Price of Music

Once upon a time, acquiring music was very expensive.  Buying vinyl albums was tough enough, but when CDs first came out, it wasn’t uncommon in 1999 to see a copy of, say Led Zeppelin IV, selling for $24.99 (about $35 in today’s cash).  And even if we wanted just one song from an album, we had no choice to pay for the entire album.  But because we had to have our music, we sucked it up and opened our wallets.

Common sense seems to suggest that we spent a lot more on music on a per capita basis back then.  Or did we?

According to figures released by the International Federation for the Phonographic Industry–the body that represents the recording industry across the planet–the average annual spend on by someone over the age of 18 back in 1999 was $28.

Let me repeat that.  Twenty-eight dollars.  On recorded music.  In a year.

Of course, that’s spread out across the general population, including non-music fans.  But even if you were big into music back then, the average annual spend was just $64.

So where are we today?  Given that we’re able to purchase individual songs, average spend per person has gone down.  In Canada, the average person bought $16.24 worth of music in 2010.  That’s down from $17.98 in 2009.

Naturally, the music industry would love to see that $28 level again–but given that more and more people are getting into music streaming, that’s highly unlikely.

Here’s another interesting stat:  if you have an iTunes account, chances are you spend about $48 a year on downloads.

Fascinating, no? has this in-depth look at the price of music and where it may be headed.


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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