Music history broke another record, albeit a slow one in coming. In 2011, digital music sales finally topped physical sales in the US, according to recent Billboard and Nielsen report.
Digital purchases made up 50.3 percent of all music sales in 2011, an 8.4 percent increase over the year before. Physical sale of albums likewise declined five percent, cashing in at 228 million sales.
That’s a hair of the dog to be sure, considering the heightened consumer interest in digital downloads over the past decade. Music companies have been slow to cash in on the digital revolution in a marketable format. This latest record break indicates the kinks might be just about worked out.
As another good indicator for the music business, overall album sales were up 3 percent over the previous year, the first time since 2004. And while physical album sales did decline 5 percent in 2011 over the previous year, that’s chump change compared to the 19.5 percent experienced in 2010.
Also for the first time, a digital song had more than five million downloads in a calendar year, including Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” at 5.8 million downloads and LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” at 5.5 million. In fact, 112 digital songs exceeded the 1 million sales mark for the year, while 38 digital songs exceeded 2 million sales.
Nearly 31 percent of all albums were purchased through a digital service, a five percent increase over the previous year.
On the other side of the technological divide, more vinyl records were purchased more than any other year the report has been compiled, for the fourth consecutive year. Nearly 3.9 million records were sold in 2011, a 36.3 percent increase over the previous year. Vinyl’s increasing popularity should put a smile on the music executives’ faces. If you burn it, it melts.