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40 years of music sales in graphs

40 years of music sales in graphs

Music formats come and go with each new format proclaimed as the future and signalling the death of older formats. Most in the music industry thought vinyl was going to go the same way as the not at all missed 8 track format but has been rather popular in recent times (see Book of month Vinyl Revival and the shops that made it happen).

The death of record shops has been predicted but more are opening up than closing down and events like Record Store Day (Record Stay Day is a remarkable effort at self help by an industry) and the Mercury Prize remind the public that great records are still being produced. The fluctuations between the different formats is significant and ever-changing. We have found an excellent piece of work showing how the picture has changed over time.

Visualizing 40 Years of Music Industry Sales

US Journalist Nick Routley has just produced a brilliant analysis of format splits between different music formats – Visualizing 40 Years of Music Industry Sales

Looking back at four decades of music industry sales data is a fascinating exercise as it charts not only the rise and fall the record company profits, but seismic shifts in technology and consumer behavior as well. We present here US sales figures but the UK probably follows a similar trend but not totals:

US music sales revenue over time

Total revenue peaked in 2000 with the rise of CDs and the exorbitant prices charged, which the customer accepted. You could argue that this led to the rise of piracy with Napster and then legal streaming services.

Physical music sales vs digital

While total revenue remains far below the peaks of the millennium, the rise of streaming as a subscription rather than a piracy model is starting to increase revenue.

Physical sales and vinyl records

Today, physical format sales only account for 17% of the industry’s revenue and CD sales are down 80% in the past decade.

There is, however, one bright spot in physical format segment: vinyl. In 2017, vinyl sales hit 25-year high after making a slow and steady comeback.

US music sales database

Visualizing 40 years of music sales

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