Music Industry

Published on July 16th, 2018 | by Alan Cross

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Last week was an all-time low for physical musical sales in the US and Canada. The CD is definitely dying out. Take a look at these shocking numbers.

If you had any lingering doubts about the battle between CDs and streaming, this should sort things out. Almost no one bought CDs (or any new physical music) in America last week.

If you total up all the sales in the Top 200 on the US SoundScan chart, only 412,229 units were purchased in a country of 320 million.

The Top 10 features some insanely low numbers. Drake debuted at #1 with 29,354 physical copies of Scorpion.

And no, that’s not a typo. I had to look three times before I believed my eyes.

Let me state that again: The biggest single contemporary artist on the planet right now had a #1 record by selling less than 30,000 physical copies in the biggest music market in the known universe.

Not that Drake cares, of course, because Scorpion has been heard millions and millions and millions of times through streaming, delivering far more revenue that he’d ever see from physical sales.

Yes, it was a weak release schedule thanks to the July 4th holiday, but still…

Here’s the full Top 10 on the US SoundScan chart:

  1. Drake, Scorpion (29,354 physical units sold)
  2. Various Artists, The Greatest Showman soundtrack (16,412)
  3. Panic! At the Disco, Pray for the Wicked (11,861)
  4. Gorillaz, The Now Now (9,774)
  5. Florence + the Machine, High As Hope (8,430)
  6. Taylor Swift, Reputation (8,174)
  7. Jason Alden, Rearview Town (7,861)
  8. Post Malone, Beerbongs & Bentleys (6.756)
  9. John Coltrane, Both Directions at Once (6,490)
  10. The Carters, EVERYTHING IS LOVE (6,118)

A few more things to note about physical music sales in America so far this year.

  • Despite being America’s music power couple, Beyonce and Jay-Z’s album (The Carters) has sold just 102,000 physical units.
  • It was possible to make the US Top 200 SoundScan last week by selling just 572 records.
  • Only eight albums in the Top 100 have sold more than a million copies. Only two (Tay-Tay’s Reputation and Traveller from Chris Stapleton) have sold more than 2 million.

It’s even worse in Canada. Drake finished at #1 by selling just under 2,900 copies of Scorpion. In all of Canada. For an entire week. Of those, exactly 471 were sold in his hometown of The 6.

Even with the Foo Fighters coming into the Rogers Centre for a show in front of 50,000 fans didn’t move the needle much on their latest album, Concrete & Gold. It sold 201 units in Toronto last week. Beck’s visit to Toronto generated 42 new sales of Colors throughout the city.

It was possible to make the Top 10 on SoundScan in Canada last week by selling just 778 CDs. That was Ed Sheeran’s Divide, by the way.

But here’s the most shocking number: All it took to make the Top 200 SoundScan chart in Canada last week was 82(!!!) CDs. I’ve seen bands sell more discs off the stage at the end of the night.

Bottom line? When someone brags about something hitting #1 on SoundScan, ignore them. It means nothing. Almost literally nothing.

 

 

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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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3 Responses to Last week was an all-time low for physical musical sales in the US and Canada. The CD is definitely dying out. Take a look at these shocking numbers.

  1. I don’t know if I’d blame the medium so much as I’d blame producers for pumping out so much garbage.

  2. Joe says:

    Damn. It was only 5 years ago that Drake could sell that many physical copies in Canada in its first week. Now he can only sell that many in the U.S. Times change quickly.

  3. Saving Bro Country Music says:

    I’d recommend you use an industry-accepted term like “pure sales” or “traditional sales” rather than “physical sales” to assess these numbers.

    Physical generally refers to pressed media like CDs and vinyls. The numbers you’re referencing include all album sales – both physical as well as digital downloads.

    As such, it actually makes your thesis even stronger.

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