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US music sales finally up in 2011, Beatles given the credit

updated 11:05 am EDT, Thu May 12, 2011

Nielsen says Beatles on iTunes help save US music

Total music sales in the US are finally increasing once again, Nielsen found in data collected this week. From the start of the year through May 8, total sales were up 1.6 percent as digital finally began compensating for dropping CD sales. iTunes, Amazon MP3, and other services helped boost online album and track sales up by 16.8 percent and 9.6 percent each.

Some of that rise could be attributed to having The Beatles on iTunes, the researchers believed. Growth in digital was shrinking and often flat until the British band went online in November, when sales almost instantly turned positive and in some cases were much higher, keeping most of that momentum through to April. Back catalog album sales were disproportionately much higher at 5.4 percent so far.

The Beatles might not be the only factor as sales often see a spike near the holidays due to Christmas music and gifts. Sustained strong sales, though, might point to Beatles sales and Apple's large marketing campaign around them having exposed many older buyers to the concept of downloadable music.

Vinyl was also up 37 percent year-over-year as it became trendy for younger buyers looking for the warm sound of records.

Digital music has almost always been on the rise since iTunes popularized it in 2003. Until now, however, it didn't offset CD declines. Music labels have usually tried to interpret this as proof piracy needed drastic legal action, such as lawsuits and three-strikes laws. The Nielsen data instead raised the possibility that a generation gap was to blame.

by MacNN Staff





  1. elroth

    Joined: Dec 1969



    The record companies are so quick to point to piracy for declining sales, but they have never acknowledged the effect of used CD sales, which are not counted in the music sales figures. Because of the ease in buying over the internet, in the last several years Amazon Marketplace and others have done a whopping business selling used CDs.

    If you add used CDs to the music sales figures, the decline in music sales of the last few years might not be much of a decline at all.

  1. elroth

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I thought the Beatles were past news, everyone already had all their music, etc. etc. Maybe the haters were a little bit wrong.

  1. TylerDurden

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Go figure...

    Go figure, if you sell music that's really good, people will buy it! What a surprise (Not that the marketing blitz when Apple announced that The Beatles were on iTunes didn't hurt, I'm sure.)

    On a side note, that thumbnail picture of The Beatles with Yoko in it. When I saw it, I got the same look Paul has on his face in that photo. :/

  1. Athens

    Joined: Dec 1969


    And the price

    They have priced them out of being a impulsive buy with CD's being $20.00. Can't find the CD's I want and when I do they are over priced. Maybe if they dropped New CDs down to the price of Used CD's they would see a massive spark in sales.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: And the price

    What? Cutting the price of CDs by a half to two-thirds will increase sales? You're an f'ing genius! Now, how much more money will it make them? What, very little to none? Then what's the point?

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Hitting bottom

    The real question is when sales will hit bottom. At some point some genius should point out that the large decline in sales is due almost solely to the ability to purchase single tracks.

    Where before idiot teenager either bought a CD Single (seriously, did people buy those?) for $4 or an entire CD just because they've caught a little Bieber fever, now they can get their "Baby" and "One less lonely girl" fix for $3 and not waste the money on other songs they'll never listen to (because the music stations haven't told them it's a hit).

    Thus, by default, sales are going to fall. But at some point they'll level off and then sales will be based on a new point. Artists now have more incentive to strive for a quality album, not a piece of c*** with a couple of sure-fire pop hits. As do the record companies.

    Assuming either of them care, that is.

  1. ferdchet

    Joined: Dec 1969



    First, Yoko was never a Beatle to my knowledge. WTH? Bad picture! Bad picture!

    Second, it's the free market in action. Testudo may not like it, and I'm sure he'll mark me down for it, but that's life. People buy what they want. Testudo wants you to buy a whole album though there's only two songs you want. The market responded by allowing you to buy individual tracks. Even the artists and the labels agreed it was a good idea. They signed the contracts, right? And the artists to maintain some control - how many people complain on iTunes when the artist makes you buy the album to get a special track ("Album Only") or even the whole album and no tracks for sale? If you want to buy an entire CD's worth of music, you can still do this on iTunes, in a music store, on Amazon, etc.

    I, for one, am grateful for the ability to choose the tracks I want to buy, even though a music purist like Testudo doesn't like that I might choose a popular track from the radio, rather than something less-played. I get it, it's the whole artist thing. Whatever.

    Now if we could only get cable and satellite providers to let me choose the stations I want...

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