Has the love gone for albums?

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May 23, 2018
Has the love gone for albums?

When was the last time you bought an album?

Was it last month, last year or maybe even longer than that.

There was a time when new album releases were big news, with major acts managing to get huge global press coverage ahead of their releases hitting the record stores. Anticipation and hype would drive super fans to queue up outside record stores to be amongst the first to get their hands on the hottest record of the year.

Moving into the tailend of the "teenies" or whatever we are calling the second decade of the millennium, things have changed. Now even finding a store that sells albums in many towns is a challenge, with many record stores having closed for good and sadly its seemingly often now only newsworthy coverage for our favourite musicians when they have passed away in untimely deaths or through old age.

So with fewer visible high profile album release moments and less frequent recollections of us buying albums ourselves you may think that no-one buys albums anymore, so, has the love gone for albums?

When it comes to the UK population there are many who do still love albums, with 1 in 4 above the age of 16 years buying at least 1 album in 2017 but this purchasing behaviour is on the decline. Five years prior in 2012 it was 1 in 3 of the UK adult population who were buying albums. Source: BPI/Kantar World Panel

Album purchasing habits in 2012 had already started to shift away from physical to digital and streaming was very much in its infancy so not a medium for the masses to hear albums through.

Five years on in 2017 the ownership model is evolving yet again with digital albums losing sales volume at a faster rate than physical. Whilst CD's have been on a decline ever since peak sales in 2009 the physical albums continued decline also has an interesting side development for Vinyl which has seen over 10 years worth of year on year growth albeit with a small total volume of sales for the format.

Part of the reason of the decline for purchasing has for many years come through piracy but the good news is that streaming is continuing to grow and is now helping the market to return to growth and providing a revenue opportunity for artists to help fill the piracy gap.

In the UK there were a colossal 68.1 billion audio streams in 2017  which is equivalent to over 1000 streams per person for the total UK population.

Streaming services such as Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play Music, Deezer & other audio services have seen growth of over 50% for volume of streams in the year to the end of 2017 and over 1700% growth when benchmarking on the streaming volumes of 2012.

Total album sales (physical & digital) in the UK have fallen by a dramatic 40% from 2012 through to 2017.

But the shift to consuming on streaming has helped the overall music consumption album equivalent market to 10% growth when comparing the two periods. The BPI introduced this methodology of combining track & streams along with album sales using a simple ratio to enable a total market consumption measure.

The album equivalent sales (AES) measure is made up of the total album sales units plus track sales totals/10 (TEA) and total streams/1000 (SEA). AES total was introduced a few years ago to help illustrate the offsetting that track sales and streams were doing for the industries album sales decline.

Stream equivalent album isn't able to factor in the number of partial or complete album listens but to fill this knowledge gap the UK official charts company have managed to build a more accurate way of assessing album listens that are generated from consumer level streaming data. Each week when album sales for the UK marketplace are collated the official charts are able to add in a weighted ratio for the top performing tracks of an albums tracklisting that is comparable so that you get the ratio of streams versus sales at the album title level. Source: BPI/Official Charts Company

So has the love gone for albums? Well its a kind of a yes in terms of purchasing declines and no in terms of music listening. With streaming bigger than ever, its now helping Artists and their managers learn even more about the habits of their listeners and its actually becoming possible to learn how many people have 'heard' the album.

Previously albums bought on MP3, Vinyl, CD or Tape or any other format were never tracked after the transaction had been completed by the consumer with the retailer and so it would be unknown who had actually listened to the album.

Now with streaming there are many advantages that can be leveraged as well as opportunities to know more about the audience for the repertoire.

But streaming data is also just one facet of the music consumer landscape, if you need help in making sense of it all and gaining a deeper understanding of your audiences drop us a line at the All Ears Group.

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