Death of the album? Sales drop 41.5% in 2018

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Rolling Stone reports:

After a comfortable 6.5 percent drop in sales in 2017, in the first half of 2018, revenues generated by the CD album in the USA were slashed nearly in half – down 41.5 percent, to $246 million.

As we all know, the music business held hands with [Spotify’s Daniel] Ek and dived profit-first into a streaming-led industry.

Now, however, a murmur is quietly breaking out: In the rush to follow the money, did the music business sacrifice something more valuable than it could have realized?

Sure, hits on streaming services make a lot of people a lot of money. But as the death knell rings for the album — and the music industry returns to the pre-Beatles era of track-led consumption — are fans being encouraged to develop a less-committed relationship with new artists?

4 thoughts on “Death of the album? Sales drop 41.5% in 2018

  1. kruekutt

    This is the reality of life in a mass market dominated by hip-hop, rap, R&B, etc, with a fair amount of bro country mixed in. The highest rock album on the current Billboard 200 is the new Disturbed at number 18, then the Bohemian Rhapsody soundtrack at #25, then the new Greta Van Fleet at #32. (Of course, the new Andrea Bocelli is #1 – go figure.)

    Regardless, the album certainly isn’t dead as an art form — the album is severely to critically wounded as a profit generator for the three behemoths of the music industry (Sony/BMG, Warner, Universal). And their market is half the size (or less?) that it was before mp3s came along. It’s my theory that, these days, popular music is back where it was before the Beatles — a key factor in millions of lives, but no longer a dominant player in popular culture.

    I honestly don’t think this makes the prognosis for prog or rock any worse; artists will do what they want to do, and get it out to people in whatever ways they can. The resurgence of prog is at least partially due to like minded bands and fans finding each other via the Internet, and sustaining the connection. That’s where a blog like this finds its mission. But the idea of new rockers scoring in the broader music industry is a diminishing prospect for now — mostly because the rock demographic is no longer the one the big boys of the music biz & radio covet and chase.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. kruekutt

        I wouldn’t mind that at all — but, to mix a metaphor, I’m afraid Schrodinger’s Cat is out of Pandora’s Box already.

        The time to “window” music (like the motion picture industry does with theatrical, then digital, then disc releases) was back in the early days of streaming; then the major labels took equity stakes in Spotify and decided to go all in on as much as possible. It’s only where artists had enough clout to resist the corporate imperative (like Taylor Swift, The Black Keys, or Bob Dylan with his Bootleg Series) that stuff’s been withheld from the streaming maw.

        To their credit, Bandcamp allows artists to window tracks according to their wishes — but for all the impact they’ve had in prog and other non-mainstream genres, they’re a small fish in the music industry pond.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I worry we are in the last days of rock as a significant music form. Yes, there are plenty of bands out there, and it is easier to connect with their music than ever before, but have you ever taken a look around at a concert? Particularly at a prog concert? I’m no spring chicken myself (at 49, I’m firmly middle-aged), but when I attend a concert and I’m surrounded by people in their 60s and 70s, I feel really young. Speaking of the young, I don’t see many of them at the shows – not enough to make touring or prog festivals profitable in the future, anyway.

    Maybe I’m overreacting – some people’s musical tastes mature and change over time – but I wouldn’t count on it. We all know that guy who listens to classic rock radio and whose mind is closed to anything released after he turned 17. On the bright side, there are still plenty of great acts out there, and I will always have my music collection. It’s also gratifying to see bands like Queen become cool to a new generation. I really hope mindless hip-hop and autotuned pop isn’t the future.

    Liked by 1 person

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