According to the latest study from Nielsen Soundscan entitled "Measuring Music Consumption," 105,000 new albums were released in 2008. This number was up from 80,000 releases in 2007.
Imagine that - 105,000 album releases in a single year!
The problem is that only 950 of them sold more than 25,000 units, and those 950 were responsible for a full 82% of all new release sales! Of the albums that were released in a digital-only form, they accounted for only 1.8% of all the sales - a mere 2.8 million units.
So what were the big sellers of 2008?
Lil Wayne at about 2.9 million
Coldplay at 2.2 million
Taylor Swift at 2.1 million
AC/DC with 1.9 million
Metallica with 1.6 million
These 5 releases totaled 2% of all sales last year.
The stats in the Nielsen report are very telling about the music industry. Here are some observations:
- With 105,000 album releases a year, it's almost impossible to get traction unless you have a big machine behind you.
- Of course, none of the top 5 albums were independent releases, and probably won't be in the immediate future either.
- There's no point in releasing an album unless it's in a physical form. Digital albums just aren't selling well.
It's getting more and more difficult to get separation from the crowd in Music 3.0. While everyone thinks that the democratization of music has leveled the playing field, it's really leveled it too much. Unfortunately, you still need the machinery of a label to get anywhere, at least for the time being, according to the figures in this report. Will 2009 be the year that an artist can really break through on his own? We're half-way through and so far the answer is a resounding "No!"