Surprise! The Plastic Disc Business Hasn’t Fixed Itself

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Welcome to 2008, and welcome to this incredibly surprising news coming out of the AP: US album sales declined in 2007. Kind of like how they’ve declined in eight of the past twelve years, actually.

Who could have predicted this? I mean, it’s not like the RIAA had access to data that seems to show that format obsolescence is a strong, if not inevitable possibility, right?
RIAA Album Unit Sales by Format 1975-2006
Oh. Right.

On the half-full side of the equation, though, let’s look at the digital end of things: single track downloads increased to 844MM from about 588MM and album downloads increased by 53% to about 50MM. Those look like pretty attractive numbers, when you consider than in the CD’s best era (the early 1990s) the year-over-year increase in unit sales maxed out at about 25%, and that without converting single-track downloads to “album equivalents” the year-over-year decline in album sales would have been more like 15%.

So the real headline here seems to be Despite Music Industry’s Best Efforts, Digital Music Successful.

Coming soon: Hey, Big Content: what ever happened to that whole “ringle” thing that was going to bring back CD sales for the holiday season?