Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Same old story: record sales down, live income up

No prizes for guessing what the review for 2008 revealed for the music business: yep, record sales are down and live revenue is up. It was another turgid year for those trying to make a living from selling music. Figures …

Fri, Jan 9, 2009, 09:18

   

No prizes for guessing what the review for 2008 revealed for the music business: yep, record sales are down and live revenue is up.

It was another turgid year for those trying to make a living from selling music. Figures released this week show that sales in the United States dipped for the seventh time in eight years.

There was a 14 per cent drop in year-on-year volume with 428.4 million albums sold. To put this in context, some 785.1 million albums were flogged back in 2000. This year’s best-selling album, Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III didn’t even break the three million watermark.

Good news? Well, the industry is selling more downloads every year, though growth in the sector has slowed with a year-on-year rise of 27 per cent, compared to the 45 per cent jump the previous year. Naturally, the revenue from digital sales is nowhere near enough to offset losses made from falling physical sales.

And, perhaps due to the worldwide recession, consumers are starting to cop themselves on a bit and are stopping buying stupid things. Sales of ringtones were down by a third.

It’s a different story for the live music business. According to Billboard Boxscore, the live music industry’s take for the past 12 months was up 13 per cent on the previous year.

The top five audience-pullers contributing to worldwide revenues of some $4 billion were, not surprisingly, such long-established acts as Madonna, Celine Dion, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and The Police.

But the lesson from this compare and contrast exercise is quite simple. If you’re an act looking to make a living from music and your name is not Enya, expect to spend the bulk of your time on the road making friends and selling T-shirts.

This week’s announcement by Apple of variable pricing and DRM-free downloads at its iTunes store is not going to change that. In fact, that move is a bit like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

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