2018 turned out to be the slowest year for music album sales in the US.
Curated playlists and the rise of on-demand music streaming services are bringing music albums down.
According to Nielsen’s latest year-end music report, album sales (both physical and digital) in the U.S. dropped to 141 million units in 2018, down from 501 million in 2007, contrasting to a record of more than 900 billion streamed songs during the same 12 months.
With the possibility of curated playlists and endless opportunities to individualize the music-listening experience, streaming services promote a more track-based consumption, harshly opposing the traditional album model that dominated the music industry long before the digital age.
But since Apple introduced iTunes, selling single tracks for 99 cents, streaming has only gone up, making 2018 its biggest year yet.
Not less music, just different listening
There is one absolute truth in all of this: music consumption is rising, meaning that people aren’t listening to music any less than they used to, they just listen differently.
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Globally, we embrace music at all points of the day, as 17.8 hours are spent listening to music each week around the world, according to IFPI’s latest Music Consumer Insight Report.
Digital brings comebacks
Vinyl album sales in the U.S. have grown for the 13th consecutive year.
In 2018, 16.8 million LPs were sold in the United States, up 14.6 percent compared to 2017 when accounting for the fact that Nielsen’s 2018 tracking period ran 53 weeks from Dec. 29, 2017 through Jan. 3, 2019.
According to Nielsen’s 2018 music report, LPs accounted for 12% of album sales in the U.S., which is quite substantial.