Figures taken from sales in the last six months show that ‘old albums’ have overtaken sales of ‘new albums’ for the first time in the US.
The OC Weekly reports a new study taken by Nielsen Soundscan – who have been tracking music sales of all formats since 1991, who last week claimed that 76.6 million ‘old albums’ had been sold between January to June of this year, compared to 73.9 million ‘current’ albums.
In this instance, Nielsen defines ‘old albums’ as items that have been on sale for longer than 18 months, it’s the first time ever that back catalogue has outsold that of new releases in Nielsen’s two-decade history of stat-tracking.
David Bakula, a representative for the chart analysts reckons it’s “a combination of two things: not having the big blockbuster new releases in the first half [of the year], and having very, very strong catalogue.” They indicate that such big sellers so far include Guns N Roses’ Greatest Hits and most of Whitney Houston’s catalogue since her death in February.
Meanwhile, representing the ‘new’ albums list are successes of Taylor Swift’s Speak Now and the all-conquering sales of Adele’s 21. The British singer’s sophomore album, which has unseated previous chart juggernaut – Michael Jackson’s Thriller, is just inside of the 18 month bracket considered for a new release; but once the next six month bracket will certainly help boost the sales yet again of the ‘old’ category if it continues to sell at the same rate into the back half of 2012.
As for the dramatic shift in sales trends, Bakula indicates that the price drop from record labels and retailers on older releases has certainly helped. “I really, truly do believe that there probably is a consumer that is buying music here that wasn’t buying music in the past,” he says. The catalyst for the trend can easily be seen in a dominant format like Apple’s iTunes store, where new albums often retail between $17-20 while older titles average at $9.99.
There are other factors at work, such as the influx of streaming services (have you found the one that suits you yet?), and considering figures from last month from UK’s BPI that show that digital revenue outsold physical sales for the first time ever, while vinyl continues its dogmatic survival – accounting for a small, but important niche in older sales.
Whether it’s a one-off or a continued trend is yet to be seen, but for those that argue ‘I like your old stuff better than your new stuff’ there’s now some actual figures to back up your dinner party argument.