Mu­sic sales up in 2012 but it’s not all good news


DO YOU want the good news or the bad? It’s bet­ter to start the New Year on a pos­i­tive note, so here’s the good: mu­sic sales were up in 2012 In the US, the world’s big­gest mar­ket, sales of mu­sic across all plat­forms rose by 3.1%. In the UK, over­all dig­i­tal sales of TV shows, films, mu­sic and video games broke the £1bn mark for the first time, with mu­sic down­load­ing up 15%.

All good, you wil agree, but scratch be­low the sur­face and there are wor­ry­ing trends for some sec­tors of the mar­ket.

Phys­i­cal CD sales fell sig­nif­i­cantly in 2012, mir­ror­ing a pat­tern of re­cent years. CD sales fell by 14.9% in the UK and by 13.5% in the US last year, putting bricks and mor­tar stores un­der fur­ther pres­sure. And with Ama­zon and other on­line re­tail­ers tak­ing big­ger and big­ger slices of this mar­ket, the fu­ture ex­is­tence of re­main­ing record shops must be in se­ri­ous jeop­ardy.

Sin­gles are now the big­gest driver of sales in­creases, with a 5.1% rise in Amer­ica and a 6% in­crease in the UK. But al­bum sales in 2012 con­tin­ued to fall, mainly be­cause of that de­cline in the pur­chase of CDs.

What this means for record­ing artists does de­pend on where they are on the lad­der of com­mer­cial success. The Ade­les, Emili San­des, Rihannas and Ed Sheer­ans of this world will look back on 2012 with de­light and sub­stan­tially big­ger bank bal­ances. But lesser mor­tals who rely on al­bum sales and have nei­ther the funds nor the promo sin­gles to gain a strong on­line iden­tity could be strug­gling to sur­vive.

Amer­i­cans bought 316m al­bums in 2012 and 4.4m of th­ese were ac­counted for by a 2011 al­bum, Adele’s ‘21’, mak­ing it the big­gest seller, with Tay­lor Swift’s ‘ Red’ in sec­ond place. Emili Sande’s de­but ‘ Our Ver­sion of Events’ was the big­gest seller in the UK, with 1.4 m copies pur­chased, ahead of Adele’s ‘21’ and Ed Sheeran’s ‘+’.

2012 was the year of the big-sell­ing sin­gle. Go­tye’s ‘Some­body That I Used To Know’ was the top sell­ing song of 2012. It shifted 6.8m units in the US alone, mak­ing it the fourth best sell­ing dig­i­tal song of all time in that mar­ket, ahead of Black Eyed Peas’ ‘I Gotta Feel­ing’, Adele’s ‘Rolling In The Deep’, and LMFAO’s ‘Party Rock An­them’. Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe’ also made the all­time dig­i­tal sales list in the US, with al­most 6.5m sales in 2012.

In the UK nine sin­gles broke the mil­lion sales bar­rier in 2012. Go­tye and Jepsen lead the way, fol­lowed by Fun’s ‘We Are Young’, David Guetta’e ‘Ti­ta­nium’ and X Fac­tor win­ner James Arthur’s ‘Im­pos­si­ble’.

The only Ir­ish in­ter­est in the UK’s 2012 Top 40 is at num­ber 21 where The Script and’s ‘Hall of Fame’ pops up due to healthy sales of 529,000.

Thanks to the re­demp­tion of Christ­mas vouch­ers, the week be­gin­ning De­cem­ber 22 was the big­gest week of the year for dig­i­tal sales and that en­abled one Christ­mas song to make a lit­tle bit of chart his­tory.

The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s ‘Fairy­tale of New York’, which has made the UK charts at Christ­mas time for each of the last eight years, fi­nally passed the magic one mil­lion sales mark to be­come the 126th mil­lion-seller in the UK.

This is all very well but in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture we may not be re­fer­ring to ‘sales’ at all, but to stream­ing. Data from the likes of Spo­tify and Deezer sug­gests that the stream­ing of mu­sic grew by around a third in 2012, and if that trend con­tin­ues, those who pay to down­load may be­come the mi­nor­ity.

Go­tye and Kim­bra’s ‘Some­body That I Used To Know’ was the big­gest sell­ing song of 2012.

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