Friday, January 2, 2009

Is the Album Dead?

Looking at top 10 album sales from 2008 vs. 2000, we see sales 1/3 the level from those just 8 years ago.

Click for ginormous chart

The Big Picture asks:

How many of these do you own the CD of? How many do you own legally? How many have you borrowed or downloaded?
The bigger question inferred... is the album dead?

Source: NY Times / EW


  1. none,none and none.

  2. Circa 2000: 1, 1, 0 (Eminem)
    Circa 2008: 0, 2, 2 (Coldplay and Metallica)

    Btw- for all you former "metal-heads", the Metallica album is great

  3. the album IS dead, because most albums have what like 3 or 5 good songs... the rest usually suck. From experience i can say i only listen to at max 5 songs from a single cd, ever. So i never EVER listen to about 60% of songs on 98% of the albums i own. So what is the point of paying for the WHOLE album when i can buy each song separately on itunes or another site that sells songs. There is no justification for it. And the cd will go bad eventually from scratches or some other physical deformity, maybe ill drop something or step on it. Crap Happens... anyway its just not smart to buy whole albums anymore, that is why those figures are the way they are.

    OH and... back in 2000 cds were still *new* and cool. Now if you lisen to a cd in a cd player you look like a joke, or like you are poor. Everyone has a MP3 player, maybe if the non drm MP3 of each song came on the cd aswell then sales will be different. So.. the CD is dead, the album is obsolete, and good songs are hard to come by.


  4. 0, 0, 0.

    Interestingly enough, I spend thousands a year on music yet I own not a one of these CDs (nor I have I downloaded them).

    What you're also missing is that the market has fractured. People who listen to heavy metal don't listen to hip hop....

    Most pop music is so manufactured these days that a lot of people simply don't bother - there isn't a lot of musical content in it. (Not all by any means - listening to a Daft Punk album I just got which is quite nice...)

  5. I'd check overall album sales for comparison. Maybe the sales pattern is just less top-heavy. The music industry is highly skewed in terms of income, 5% of albums make up 95% of sales. I just made those numbers up, but you get the idea.

    It might be the case that the lower numbers represent a diversification of the industry. Also, do these numbers include internet sales?

  6. Hypebot

    In 2008 the # of overall album sales dropped 14% after digital was added; this follows a 15% drop in '07 and represents a 45% decline since a high in 2000.

    Looks like it has been tough all around, though not as bad as the top 10 would indicate

  7. I believe the album is dead, but in the Reuters article I first read about this in it talked about how overall music sales have increased about 10%. So music consumption is up, which is a great sign. I just wrote about this on my blog at

  8. Austin-

    Be careful how you interpret that article.

    It states "Overall music sales, including albums, singles, music video and digital tracks, rose 10.5 percent to 1.5 billion units, after 14 percent growth in 2007 and a 19 percent jump in 2006."

    My question... what constitutes a "unit"?

    To give an example, what if in 2007 the entire market was 10 albums, while 2008 was 11 singles. In this case "unit sales" are up 10%, while the market is down from ~100 songs to 11 songs.


  9. @Jake-Good point, and that definitely needs to be considered. In general, I was trying to show that people still want music, but only not in the form that music labels/companies want them to.

  10. I'll agree with you there. I've never liked music more than I do now, but I buy a heck of a lot less of it...

  11. @Jake
    That's why I definitely can see more music becoming free, being more used as advertising for concerts, merchandise, and the like. The artist becomes a brand. People like brand loyalty.