The Decline of the Music Industry Visualized



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Recorded music has lost its rarity and so its value.

Live music can't be copied.

Do the math.



And yet tons of great music is being made, it's just the type of stuff that isn't played on the radio. But music fans love it, and there are more music fans than ever. There will always be musicians who will make music, and people to support them.

Didn't I hear that the latest Grammys was actually the most watched ever? And that's a total industry show.

The record companies just made their product undesirable. Too expensive, lacking in the content that previous releases used to have. So people stopped buying. You have to squeeze pretty hard to get people mad at you for selling them something they already want.



Brian Dowding

So basically, this chart shows previously unheard of sales growth at exactly the point in time that the RIAA was claiming decreased sales as the corner-stone of their case against Napster.




 i listened to FM until I got a phone with Pandora. I never buy cds, never have, and never will.



The reason CD sales were so high is because they were grossly overpriced. I stopped buying cd's over 10 years ago.



Music, if you can call it that, is crappy now ( something I recal my parents saying LOL ). If something does come out I like I buy it on-line, not CD anymore.

Actually, I have purchased more vinyl lately than CD.



Raise the quality of the music and drop the price and I'm back on board. The price tag is what makes me really picky. I used to just go and pick up albums that I thought might be good... considering the prices now, that's just not feasible. New albums are regularly released at 20-25 CAD. I remember when I could walk into stores and get albums for a tenner.



When I was in school, albums were $5.99



I will never buy a CD again. Maybe I'm in the minority but I like listening to the radio and when I'm not in the car and I need a music fix... i've got an app for that. Or I'll just play it off youtube. Free music is everywhere.



Maybe if they lowered their prices, more people would be inclined to buy the entire album. I wanted to pick up the newest Snow Patrol album the other day (I already have the entire album in digital format, but I just wanted to add something to my CD collection), and it was $16.99 !!! It's ridiculously overpriced. I just walked out of the store empty-handed. Had it have been like $12, I would'vd gladly paid for it.



I honestly think it probably has to do with other types of media more than format.  About the same time digital formats came out, so did the availability to watch videos more easily (including online).  DVD players were much more common, as most people started having one in their computers, and right after that portable dvd players were all the rage too, and then right after that, it became possible for a larger amount of people to watch videos online/anywhere.

I honestly believe the music industry is suffering on 2 fronts.  One being their in-ability to come up with good digital distrobution methods (apple did it for them and stole their cash cow), and also the fact that richer forms of media are more prevalent and accessible than they historically used to be.

Also, in an increasingly social world, I feel that video is consumed by small or large groups more actively than music.  With music though, it seem it's mostly a guy with some headphones on.  It may be that people enjoy consuming media socially rather than alone, and music doesn't seem to be as popular to seek out in that regard.  If there is anything the movie industry has done right, it's keeping theaters/cinemas popular...


Up Early

I see some of the previous posts agree....  Regardless of Format , there is a lot to be desired in terms  of the content.  It seems that comtemporary music has just went through one of worst decades in terms of talent and originality. And by the looks of it we are not out of the woods, it's looking like even worse is coming our way. eBay is doing a brisk business of selling music from decades ago; and when I go in a used record/CD shop I see more sales taking place than a shop selling new releases. And some of those used CD's don't come cheap, many are quite prized and are very pricey.

Most folks I know don't even listen to the radio anymore, the new music stinks and the classic stations jsut play the same 30 songs over and over. Everyone I know listens to Internet and Public Funded radio that has a greater depth of content.  

You can package and market junk anyway you want, but junk is still what it is. Don't blame the format it is in.





The chart merely shows decline in money of the music industry - but there are more independent bands/groups that have the ability to put out there music via internet, MP3's, Facebook, Ect. There is better music out there its just not promoted and has to be found. Everybody has no sympathy for the music industrty when most of us still remember paying $20 for a .05$ CD with 1 good song and 20 shitty songs. Not to mention the industries exploitation of group. The RIAA get what they deserve... they should never been allowed to make us much money as they did and now that they aren't getting there greedy share they cry.   



I do buy at least 10 CDs a year for the car, house, or rip for MP3 player.

I was never drawn towards going the digital route. It seems the average cost per tune is $1 So considering most CDs can be found for $16-20, and most contain around 16 songs it costs pretty much the same whichever route you go.

But digital downloads most often come with DRM built in, a limit to how many devices you can play it on, limited options on rip quality such as bit rate, lossy or lossless. When you consider that the cost for digital to the publisher is less then producing a CD and there are so many restrictions that I'd rather buy a CD that plays on any CD player. Then rip it with the quality needed for which ever device it will be used on.

I also agree that while music publishers have always been more concerned with the money then the music it's been getting worse since the 80s. It seems the success of all the mass marketed boy/girl bands proved that if you do it right you can sell the average idiot just about anything. So why worry about content or quality. Just take what ever sh@t you have wrap it with a pretty bow and sell, sell, sell. You'll make millions.

I think there's another reason for the lack of sales. Years ago the only route you had for finding music was threw a label, major or indie. They were the gate keepers, because there wasn't really any other way for an artist to get their music to the masses. Now many new artists have web sites, plus there are many sites that are there to let people find new and interesting music, such as reverbnation for example.

My brother is a perfect example of how the artist and fan have been connecting with out using the traditional "gate keepers". He's an extremely talented guitarist, who is not one of the "beautiful" people, and who has struggled trying to bring his music to the people. He's definitely hard core heavy metal which of course makes him less commercial and he was thinking that at 40 his chance had come and gone. But now he's thinking that even without "making it big" things are looking a bit better. His band records, mixes, does everything themselves, and threw the new routes open to artists now, they're doing okay.

I think in 10 or 20 years lables will be less and less important, and considering where they've been heading thats a good thing.



Hundreads of years ago, people would just sing songs to each other and didn't charge for it. A song doesn't really cost anything but a little work, some instruments, and a mic to produce. If an artist can produce 20 songs a year and sell 2000 of each song at .99$ each, they would make enough money to sustain themselves as a full time job. Truthfully, though, artists could have another part time job. It doesn't need to be all commercialized, and advertising and cd/record production are irrelevant now because the artist just puts their new song on itunes and makes money.



Actually, there is plenty of good music out there. Most of it though lies in the independant arena. And because the bands don't have the look, and the polished commercial sound the record industry isn't willing to take a chance on them. And many of the good artists are now afraid of the record companies because they don't want their art controlled by a suit trying to make money.

I do occasionally still buy music. Maybe four or five a year, recently most of it has been independant stuff. Sure, the recording quality is usually a little lower, but the music is sooooo much better. But, I never, never, never, ever buy overly compressed terrible sounding mp3's. I only purchase them on CD. Unfortunately I never purchased a turntable for my system so vinyl is out, not that much is released on vinyl anymore anyway.

The suits need to get out of rubber stamping music and getting into funding those who CREATE music. Only then will music sales rebound. Piracy is not the issue.


Mighty BOB!

I still buy music sometimes (usually single mp3s or CDs from Amazon) but these days 99% of my music I just stream from Pandora or YouTube.



Is that chart adjusted for inflation? If not, then it's gibberish. A dollar in 1973 had the same purchasing power of five dollars in 2009.  That's right people, in 36  years the dollar has lost 80% of it's value.  All hail the printing presses of the Federal Reserve and their partner in crime, the US government.  Inflation is theft!

On a lighter note, I only buy CDs because the quality and durability of discs far exceed that of the ephemeral digital download. And I hardly buy new music because of the lack musical talent being pushed. I love the promo on Sirius/XM's classic rock channel that asks: Remember when the musicians were ugly, but the music was great? We surely have the opposite today.  In the past music was an identity for both listeners and artists. Now identity is the identity. It's all attitude and little talent. 

The music industry failed by not embracing digital downloads.  They should have pioneered digital distrubution(DD) and they opposed it instead.  Look at DD today: no cloud back-up for purchases, no liner notes, no additional photos, no lyrics, no video and, most importantly, piss-poor audio quality.  The music industry gets what it deserves.



Good chart. The peek shows when I stopped developing my personality. It shows when I stopped looking for new music. Since then, music is just not as interesting anymore. Either I grew up or "the biz" got boring. And when I do find "new" music that I like I find out that it was actually recorded 10 years ago. I look myself in the mirror and realize that I have the same hairdo as I did 10 years ago - damn!

Music was art, then it became an industry so it became a business that had to be managed by suits. Companies used to be run by music lovers and old musicians who picked bands based on their music - some bands looked rather ugly. Now, however, artists are selected based on completely different parameters.

Another thing; artists only make the amount of music they can make and an album was 40 minutes but now it is 60 minutes. We used to buy the singles and the album, so sometimes you got the same music twice but who buys a single anymore? Remember the old cover-art? that was exciting too. There is no cover art anymore.

I think music hit a generational peek and now it is just boring fake crap.



I found this article interesting.  I've always assumed that sales remained the same, just the medium in which their sold changed.

The biggest and most obvious reason for the decline is piracy.  For example, there are websites out there where you can input a youtube link, and within seconds, it will convert it into a 256Kbit encoded MP3 and download onto your computer.

Another reason is artists today tend to throw their albums against the wall and expect their fans to buy it.  Not enough effort goes into the songwriting process, production, touring, promotion, etc.

One exception that comes to mind is Lady Gaga.  She embarked on her career the old-fashioned way and it payed out.  She's on her third year of consecutive touring, around the world.  She spends a lot of time calling into radio stations, doing interviews, and performing, all to promote her work, more so then any artist I can think of recently.  Most importantly, she's incredibly close to her fans and has built a vast, geniune relationship with them on Facebook, twitter and through "meet and greets".  She knows her fans will buy her music, some of them will buy multiple copies too support her.  And here is the proof:

Born This Way, her new single released Friday, February 13th, 2011.  Here are figures for itunes alone:

Reached the #1 spot in itunes U.S. in less than 3 hours, becoming the fastest song to ever do so.

Reached the #1 spot in itunes in 24 countries in less than 24 hours.

Broke the record for most first-day spins on U.S. radio.  In one day, it was played 1838 on mainstream stations alone.

Debuted at #1 on Billboard Hot 100 with 448,000 copies sold in less than 3 days.

Personally, I buy less music these days.  I still like buying CD's though.  I get peace of mind having a physical copy of my music.  I also like ripping the uncompressed, 1411kbps PCM audio from the cd and listening to it on my hard drive.  I've invested a lot of time and money into my PC sound system and can hear a genuine difference in "sonic quality" over MP3's.



You'll remember about the time that vinyl hit its "peak", albums only cost about $6. Pre-recorded cassettes cost an extra dollar.

I worked for both Sight-n-Sound and Lieberman's (media distribution companies) when the compact disc was introduced, and album costs for that format were eye-popping: $16 to $22, depending on the artist. Plus, drop another $600 on a 2X player. Meanwhile, vinyl was only $8 or $9 per album, and an audiophile turntable with an Ortifon cartridge could be had for about $300 (but most people didn't spend more than $50 on a record player).

In addition, it cost the labels far more money to recycle petroleum and print on cardboard than produce plastic and a the profit margin was extremely in favor of the CD over vinyl. Thus came the slow death of vinyl...bands like AIC, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam had to do some arm-twisting with the labels to get their albums released on vinyl, but there aren't many bands like that getting signed these days.

Then you look at the big money-making concerts the last few years that most of us can't afford beyond the convenience charge: nearly all of them are either dinos or reunion tours. Sure, Miley, Justin and Brit will sell out a lot of arenas, but otherwise we're not seeing a lot of success on the road.

And that's the rub: bands go on tour to make money. The labels hope that as a result, they will make money off album sales generated by fans who saw the tour. But because the concerts are way too expensive now, the bands make little, or cancel dates. The album sales suffer as a result, so the labels don't make much money, either.

Plan: drop the convenience charge to a dollar. Make a certain percentage of tickets available at the box office so that everybody has a chance to gets tickets for the bigger acts. And drop the entrance price by 30% (or more for lesser-known acts). That would get more people back to the arenas, and album sales would likely follow.

But that's a rational plan. And everybody has seen over the last decade that the one word you CANNOT use to describe the music industry is "rational".

So, good luck, music industry! You have surprised absolutely no one, so quick sobbing in your beers and go to technical college or sumpthin...


Mighty BOB!

$6 in 1978, adjusted for inflation, is $20.33 today.



And $8 to $9 in 1985, adjusted for inflation, is $16.44 to $18.49 today.

While $16 to $22 in 1985, adjusted for inflation, is $32.88 to $45.20 today.

Thank you for helping me make my point.



They should start suing their customers!!!!!!!  That will make people want to buy from them.



It's all auto tuned/resampled/overdubbed nonsense because none of the little kiddies today know how to actually play a legitimate instrument- much less actually read or write music.

Bubble gum pop has become king (for the moment) and until the industry gets back to its roots (real music from real musicians)- that graph will continue to plummet.

Hey kids- if your too cool to take a music class- you'll never make cool tunes.


Peanut Fox

That probably has a lot to do with all the old fuddy duddies not wanting their taxes to go up, so all the schools end up canceling their music programs.  Something about having cake and eating it too ;)



I usually get my music from friends.  the good ol copy/paste.  Occasionally i will torrent an album too.  I havent bought an album in over 6 years.



Music was always and will always be art. You can try to build a business around it, but in the end it's meant to be shared freely and without prejudice. Anyone one person who pins the blame on piracy is not only ill-advised, but ignorant of what is really going on. People are tired of making an investment in an artist (buying a CD) when the turn-around ends up being utter crap. All the record industries really care about is getting the most money and profit from an artist before discarding them to the side leaving them nothing but a small dedicated fan base.

Case and point: Justin Bieber. Plucked from obscurity by some rich executives, he's been nothing but a marketing machine. A tool to earn as much money as fast a possible. Remember Nsync, Aaron Carter, Britany Spears, or the Spice Girls? All previous Justin Beibers. 2 to 3 years down the road, you probably won't remember much of Justin.



Generic crap, with autotune equals no money from me.



I haven't purchased a full album in years now, I either snag the song on iTunes or listen to on Pandora.  As was said above most of the albums being put out now have one maybe two good songs on them and the rest is crap and then the labels push out so many greatest hits albums, throwing in one new song it is pathetic.



Tell the "music artists" to stop making crap.  It seems like every time a new album comes out there is maybe one good song and the rest are junk.  Besides, there's Pandora that I pay $30 a year for that satisfies my music palette.



I completly agree stop making crap.Artists make there money from there concerts and they agree and don't care as much about how there cd sales are doing.Radiohead released a free album and proved that.Other bands like Dave Mathews are starting to release there singles free! And that's the only reason with todays music we would buy the album.I use Pandora as well and if i find that a artists songs on a specific album are generally all good i'll go and purchase the album.



I couldn't agree with you two more.  Why should I spend money to enrich a bunch of dumbass music executives who wouldn't know a good artist if (s)he landed on his head?  Advice to record labels: if you want to make some money selling music, stop looking for ways to rip off consumers and instead give us (gasp) good, non-derivative music and sell it for a fair price (not $20 for a CD).  Spend your money on making good music instead of on suing teenagers and grandma for piracy, and get your CDs onto the counters at Starbucks, Rite Aid, etc.  Get creative... that is what music is about you silly suits.



Hahaha,yea.And everyone I know just talks about concerts now anyways, there more creative then the music tends to be i  mean look at lady gaga! Her shows are way more interesting then her music she does some crasy shit.