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.