As a general trend album sales have been in freefall since 1999 and have generally been considered one of the first casualties of the internet since Napster made music free and easy to share a decade ago. However, according to Nielsen SoundScan 155.5 million albums were sold in the US in the first six months of 2011, compared to the 153.9 million albums sold at this time last year – a small but important one percent increase.
The increase is unsurprisingly down to digital album sales which are “up 19 percent through the first six months over 2010 and are on pace to set a new sales record at the end of the year”. Album do, however, still only make up a small percentage of digital sales, with more than 660.8 million digital units being sold in the first half of this year, an 11 percent increase on the same period last year.
Alongside this stabilising of sales has been the introduction of new listening options for users and new revenue streams from them to artists and labels. 2011 has seen the IPO of Pandora and the expansion of Spotify with a real US launch very soon and a tie in with Facebook – all providing additional streaming fees to label’s bottom lines. The picture may still be far from rosy and we will see if the market continues to grow or even remain stable in the second half of the year before making any bold claims. But one thing is true – this is the best news the music industry has seen in a long time.