Music industry hits yet another sour note

Just when people thought the business dynamics of the U.S. music industry couldn't get any worse, along comes a report from Billboard that shows that album sales hit another record low.

Data from Nielsen SoundScan cited by the trade publication shows sales this week hit 3.97 million, the smallest tally the market monitor has seen since it began tracking this data in 1991. That's well below the 4.88 million albums that were sold during the same time a year ago. Even worse, album sales have topped 5 million for only 5 weeks this year.

Though rapper Wiz Khalifa's Blacc Hollywood debuted at number one on the charts this week, its sales of 90,000 units was "below the first-week sales of many other top debuts of 2014," according to Billboard. Even sales of the soundtrack of Walt Disney's $1 billion-plus hit "Frozen" are softening, the trade publication says.

The Billboard data underscores trends in the music industry that have been going on for years. As streaming music services such as Apple's iTunes surged in popularity, sales of albums tanked. Unfortunately, that business isn't doing that great either. Sales of digital tracks fell 13 percent to $593.6 million during the first half of the year.

" ...Just 18 months ago, Adele's Grammy-winning "21" -- the best-selling album of 2011 and 2012 -- finished the latter year with sales in excess of 10 million," according to July Variety story on the six month data. "It is conceivable that such a phenomenon will not be seen in the industry again."

  • Jonathan Berr On Twitter»

    Jonathan Berr is an award-winning journalist and podcaster based in New Jersey whose main focus is on business and economic issues.