Here are Some Sobering Real-World Statistics on Music Sales

While doing some reading over the weekend, I can across some interesting statistics from Nielsen, the people who keep track of music sales. They offer some insight into what’s really happened in the American music market.

In 2016, 8.7 million music tracks were sold. Of those, 96% sold fewer than 100 copies. A full 40%–that’s 3.5 million–were purchased just once. On a related note, I’ve read that up to 20% of the songs on Spotify haven’t been played at all. Not once. (There’s a site called Forgotify that mines all those unheard songs. You should give it a try.)

These stats have nothing to do with the quality of the music. It’s just there’s too damn much of it. Near infinite choice is great, but who has the time to go through everything? And how can musicians ever hope to break through?

If you can answer that second question, you have wisdom beyond the realm of the human race.

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.

One thought on “Here are Some Sobering Real-World Statistics on Music Sales

  • February 28, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    This is the basis of my complaint about commercial radio stations playing the same dozen songs over and over. There is SO MUCH MUSIC out there, but even though the local indie station brags they play “today’s best new music”, they seem to have zero interest in actually playing more than a tiny fraction of it. I want them to be introducing me to some of the gems hidden in that 96%, but instead they’d prefer to keep playing the same Metric, July Talk and Tragically Hip songs over and over and over.

    Thank god for college radio, public access and other “alternative” stations.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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