Music Sales: Streaming Rises, Physical Albums Sales Fall

By Kenneth Barilari

Over the past 12 months, physical album sales have substantially declined, and the use of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music has increased in the United States, proving that while music has always been around, it is constantly evolving.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, or the IFPI, is the organization that represents the interests of the recording industry worldwide. They found that over just the past year, the sale of physical albums has fallen eight percent. They have surveyed people throughout the United States, finding that “thirty-five percent of consumers had used a free service in the last year, compared to 16 percent who had paid for a subscription.” So, listeners do not want to pay for their music anymore.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, or the RIAA, physical album sales have been on a decline since 2013, dropping from $2,445,000 to $2,251,000 in 2014. 2015 saw an ever bigger decrease with $2,024,000.

Streaming, on the other hand, has been on the rise, earning $1,450,000 in 2013, $1,868,000 in 2014, and $2,407,000 in 2015, as reported by the RIAA. These jumps in revenue reflect the growing popularity of streaming services for music listeners in the United States. Also, they prove that streaming earned $383,000 more than physical album sales in 2015.


Vinyl records are attempting to defy those statistics, as they have made a substantial comeback in the past year. Forbes reports that 2015 marks tenth consecutive year that vinyl sales have grown considerably. In 2015, sales of vinyl records in the United States grew by 30 percent. That figure brought the total number of records sold to 11.92 million, up from 9.19 million in 2014. Still, vinyl records are still only responsible for 5 percent of all albums moved in the country. “Adele’s 25 was the best-selling vinyl of the year, with 116,000 copies sold in 2015,” Forbes reports.

Millions of people are still buying physical CDs, but they now seem to buy more of them on impulse, at locations that haven’t necessarily been known as high-volume storefronts. Forbes reports that Starbucks and Amazon saw growth in the number of albums they sold over the last 12 months, as did concert venues. However, sales at chains like Barnes & Noble and f.y.e. stores declined 20.6%. Mass merchants like Walmart and Target have seen steady decreases in the number of albums sold since 2013.

So, it seems that while music isn’t going anywhere, music stores might be.


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