Well, it’s happened. For the first time ever, digital music sales have surpassed CD sales, at least in the UK. A total of £155.8m was spent on music during the first quarter (up 2.7% year-over-year, for the record), and of that, 55.5% belonged to digital music, whether it be single downloads or an ad-funded / subscription service like Spotify and Last.fm.
To accomplish this overtake, CD and vinyl sales dropped 15% to £69.3m in sales, while digital album sales rose 22.7% to settle in at £35.9m. Note the “albums” mention there; these weren’t digital singles but complete albums. The reason that’s important is that labels have believed in the past that the ability to purchase individual singles would ruin complete album sales, but that doesn’t really seem to be the case. Even in a digital age, if you’re a huge fan of a band or solo artist, chances are good you’re going to want the entire album. The other £50.6m not mentioned likely owes its thanks to the subscription services and single downloads.
This all said, despite profits being up, individual units seem to be on the decline. It was reported just over a week ago that weekly album sales in the UK slumped to their lowest levels since 1996 – effectively 7.5% lower than the previous week. It was also the first time that the #1 charted album for the week sold less than 20,000 units. There are a billion ways to speculate this happening, but that’s all it’d be… speculation.
Of course, those that know me know I can’t end a post like this without the obligatory “So isn’t it about time a service like iTunes begins to offer lossless options?” comment so… nevermind I guess I just took care of it.