According to an overview of last year in the music industry, the internet is killing neither the video star nor the radio star. In fact, digital music sales are keeping the entire industry afloat.
Music sales hit a new record this past year, beating the previous record set in 2011 by over 3%.
The data was gathered by Nielsen SoundScan and Nielsen BDS. Soundscan measures the point-of-sale of recorded music product in the United States, while BDS tracks radio airplay and music streams in the United States. Combined together, the two tracking systems are used in an algorithm behind most of the Billboard music charts.
So, the years-old warnings from the RIAA and “cash-strapped” artists about internet piracy and peer-to-peer sharing killing the art are looking somewhat flimsy at this point. Music sales have never been stronger, even though any twelve-year-old can jump online and illegally download Rihanna’s entire discography in a matter of minutes—for free and with only a very, very minuscule chance of detection and retaliation.
Here’s the most interesting part of the report: CD sales are down. Way down, like 13% from last year.
What does that mean?
The internet is actually the savior of music, not the enemy. It was legal sales of digital albums and tracks that boosted the music industry to new highs in 2012.
“Overall music purchases surpassed 1.65 billion units in 2012, up 3.1% vs. the previous record high set in 2011, driven by digital music sales, which continue be a key growth element within the market,” according to David Bakula, Senior Vice President of Client Development for Nielsen. “Digital Album sales are up 14.1% and Digital Track sales are up 5.1%, but despite being down 12.8%, physical is still the dominant album format.”
Last year was a great year for female music artists.
“The big artist stories of the year are Adele and Taylor Swift,” Bakula claimed. “Adele’s album, 21, is the first album ever to be the top seller of the year for two consecutive years, and Taylor Swift’s Red has sold more than 3.1 million copies in only 10 weeks, debuting with the highest weekly sales of any title since 2002.”
Looking over the sales figures, it’s obvious that the internet has a massive effect on an artist’s visibility and sales.
Many of YouTube’s biggest sensations also had the best selling tracks of the year. Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” was the best selling digital track, followed by Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”
The most bizarre internet music sensation of 2012, K-Pop pioneer Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” also cracked the top 10 best selling digital tracks, as well as the billion view ceiling on YouTube.