2013 has marked the first year since the iTunes store first opened for business in April of 2003 that the US music industry has seen a decrease in digital music sales. Recent reports say digital song sales dropped almost six percent in 2013, while digital album sales dropped 0.1 percent.
As Billboard reports, while the decline in sales of digital tracks was expected due to lacklustre sales in the first three quarters of the year, the decrease in album sales came as a rude shock to many in the industry, as the album bundle had started out the year with a strong first quarter.
Digital track sales fell 5.7 percent from 1.34 billion units to 1.26 billion units, while digital album sales fell from the previous year’s total of 117.7 million units to 117.6 million, a 0.1 percent decrease, according to figures released by Nielsen SoundScan and reported by Billboard.
Industry executives were initially reticent to attribute the digital sales downturn to an increase in consumer preference for streaming services, though in the second half of the year many began to concede. Recent figures released in the UK showed a doubling in the amount of streaming users.
Album sales suffered an overall decline of 8.4 percent, sliding from nearly 316 million units in 2012 to 289.4 million in 2013. CD sales showed a decline of 14.5 percent to 165.4 million units from 193.4 million in the prior year, while vinyl continued its revival, making up 2 percent of overall album sales.
Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience was the only album to sell more than two million units in 2013, shifting 2.4 million units total, while Robin Thicke‘s Blurred Lines was the top-selling track of the year, scanning nearly 6.5 million units, followed by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Thrift Shop.
Hip-hop was the only genre to celebrate an increase in 2013, with album sales rising 1.2 percent to 50.7 million from 50.1 million units the prior year, and in a year when album sales declined 8.4 percent. EDM sales declined 0.3 percent, while rock was down 5.9 percent in 2013.