Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Did the Beatles Just Save the Music Business? No! But Sales Are Up…

It is still way, way, way too early to say the music industry has pulled out of its decade-plus slide. Or even that it’s bottomed out.

But! Here’s a small data point you can add to the “maybe things are getting better, or at least less worse” argument: Nielsen Soundscan says U.S. music sales (by unit) are up 1.6 percent for the year to date. It credits the increase to a boom in digital, which had been flattening out a year ago.

Again, it’s early in the year. And even if sales do end up positive for all of 2011, that’s one year versus more than 10 years of decline. So I’d be hesitant to make too much of any of this.

Still: The numbers do sync up with an earlier report I pointed out last month, which showed sales were down a mere 1.3 percent at the time. They also align with Warner Music Group’s Q1 numbers, which showed growth, too.

I haven’t heard anyone in the music industry explain why they think digital is up dramatically so far this year. Nielsen’s chart below flags the arrival of the Beatles on Apple’s iTunes last fall, but I have a hard time believing the “Love Me Do” bump extended into March and April. Anyone want to hazard a guess?

Here’s the full data dump, for those who care. And please, please, please don’t get excited about the vinyl sales increase–even after a 14.2 percent jump this year, vinyl represents less than 2 percent of sales.

Total Albums w/TEA +1.6%

(Track Equivalent Albums)

Overall Albums -1.5%

Physical Albums -8.3%

Digital Albums +16.8%

Digital Tracks +9.6%

Physical Formats:

CDs -8.8%

Vinyl +37.0%

By Current/Catalog:

Current -7.0%

Catalog +5.4%