Has digital music killed the album?

has digital music killed the albumAfter many years of discussion – and more than a few of straight-up panic-mongering and uncertain, uneasy optimism and anywhere in between – it looks as if the collective music industry’s worst fears about the evolution of the digital market are coming true. Overall album sales are down, leading some to believe that digital music has finally managed to finish off the format… and perhaps by accident.

Paid Content compared music sales data from both sides of the Atlantic and found that, in both the US and UK, album sales are down, falling 3.2 percent in the United States and a worrying 13.8 percent in the United Kingdom when compared with the previous year. Oddly enough, this is bad news hidden amongst a lot of really good news in each report: On both reports, overall music sales are rising in 2012 compared with the same period of 2011, in some cases significantly. US digital track sales have risen 5.6 percent when comparing Q2 2012 to Q2 2011, and digital album sales are up 13.7 percent in the same comparison period; vinyl album sales in the US are also up in Q2 2012, rising 14.2 percent, suggesting that what’s actually happening to albums is a wholescale collapse of the CD market.

That story seems to be paralleled with what’s happening in the United Kingdom, with the British Phonographic Industry reporting that the digital album market is showing growth of 15.0% in Q2 and 17.3% for the year-to-date. BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor is quoted in the official PR surrounding the report as saying that, “We’ve had another solid quarter of digital growth in sales volumes – both in albums and on singles, where the top 10 were exclusively sold as digital downloads.” He goes on to point out that “Album unit sales are down quite significantly year-on-year, but it’s important to remember that these unit sales figures do not take into account the growing importance of music streaming and subscription services,” and that, perhaps, may point out why the album is ultimately in trouble.

The success of streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora offers a “best of both worlds” for users, giving them the chance to have the perpetual automated play of a radio station while also allowing the ability to limit/remove music that isn’t to their taste that the “manual” play of albums, or simply creating play lists/mix tapes/whatever has to offer, and all without requiring the purchase of any music. While overall digital sales may be increasing, what seems to be happening is that the music purchasing audience is fragmenting between digital and vinyl purchases, leaving a more casual audience, who’d previously been purchasing CDs, elsewhere – If subscription services offer them a cheaper, easier way to listen to the music they want without having to actually buy it, then why should they continue to purchase?

Overall music sales may be up now, but the drop in overall album sales feels like an outlier that deserves further attention. That might be the way overall sales end up going in years to come.


Amazon knocks $50 off the Sonos Beam soundbar and smart speaker

If you're looking to add some oomph to your home audio setup, then through February 3, the Alexa-enabled Sonos Beam is on sale for $50 off, bringing this excellent sound bar down to just $349 on Amazon.

Fast and Furious fans get revved up: Toyota’s Supra sports car is back

The 2020 Toyota Supra made its long-awaited debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The resurrected sports car, famous for a role in The Fast and the Furious, goes on sale in the U.S. this summer.

Best tax software deals from TurboTax, H&R Block, and more

Do you dread doing your taxes? Luckily for you, there are plenty of tax software options available to guide you through the process. And guess what? Some of them are even on sale today! Check out deals from TurboTax, H&R Block, and…

With 341 horsepower, the WRX STI S209 is the most powerful Subaru ever

The Subaru WRX STI S209 is the latest in a series of special editions that have never been sold in the United States before. The 341-horsepower pocket rocket debuts at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.

The best free music download sites that are totally legal

Finding music that is both free and legal to download can be difficult. We've handpicked a selection of the best free music download sites for you to legally download your next favorite album.

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.
Home Theater

Mobile masters: Tidal’s better-than-CD MQA tracks come to Android

Audiophile-grade music tracks and streaming music services don't come together very often, and when they do, it's not always easy to find a device that plays them. That's no longer the case as Tidal's MQA tracks now work on Android.

From true crime to comedy, here's our list of the best podcasts around

When you aren’t in the music mood, podcasts can be your ear candy. Whether you love to stay up-to-date on the latest news or want to know what’s happening in sports, you’ll find something on our must-listen-to podcast roundup.

Music junkie? Here are the 24 best music apps for consuming and creating tunes

We rummaged through the iOS and Android app stores to find the finest mobile music-creation and music-consumption apps in existence. No matter if you're on Android or iOS, here are the best music apps.
Home Theater

Mobile audio gets an upgrade thanks to new Sonarworks apps

Sonarworks is used by audio engineers around the world to get more accurate sound from their headphones. Today, the company launched Android and iOS apps for the same ability on mobile devices.

Don't use streaming apps? Try the best free media players for your local music

Rather than using music-streaming apps, you may want something for playing your local music. Good news! There are some good alternatives. These are the best media players you can download for free on Windows.

Tidal faces legal jeopardy over fake stream numbers accusation

In another challenging chapter for music subscription service Tidal, Norwegian authorities have begun a formal investigation into charges that the company faked millions of streams for artists such as Kanye West and Beyoncé.

Don't spend hundreds on Pro Tools or Logic. Try one of these free alternatives

Believe it or not, Pro Tools isn't the only digital audio workstation worth your time. Check out our picks for the best free recording software, whether you're looking for a lightweight app or a full-blown audio workstation.