Thursday, October 8th, 2009

RIAA’s Proof That Digital Downloads are Killing the Music Industry

August 3, 2009 by Rico Mossesgeld  
Filed under Audio, Ramblings of a Gadget Geek

The New York Times recently came with an infograph charting different kinds of media and the sales they’ve enjoyed. Here’s a breakdown of each medium and their respective peak years and sales for those respective years:

Courtesy the New York Times

Courtesy the New York Times

Medium Peak Year Sales (in Billion $)
8-Track 1978 3.1
Cassette 1988 6.1
LP/EP 1978 8.1
CD 1999 16.4
Download Album 2008 0.6
Download Single 2008 1

The first impression that the graph leaves is that digital downloads are killing the music industry, as relatively lackluster sales are hurting the machinery needed to get our favorite tunes out.

To be fair though, it’s not clear if that was the RIAA or the NYT’s intent. It’s worth noting the chart paints a clear trend: the sales of older media go down as newer media attains critical mass. As the CD led to the demise of cassette, it eventually took up the slack of dropping cassette sales, and eventually the CD became the most profitable music medium ever.

It’s also worth noting that—despite the global recession curbing consumer spending—digital sales are constantly climbing. Eventually, digital downloads will take up the slack and eventually take the sales crown away from the CD. The major label that’s first to see this potential, and realize it by making music easier to buy (and own) than ever, will be a winner for the long-term.

So a suggestion for the big labels: give more control to the people who buy the product, and be patient. Digital downloads will break sales records, as they make it easier for people to buy music—and thus pay money. You’re of course, free to agree, disagree, or remain neutral by leaving a comment below.


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