Music sales grew for first time since 2004

Steven Loeb · March 27, 2012 · Short URL:

Single downloads were up nearly 11% from 2010, while album downloads were up over 22%

Well, here’s a bit of good news for all you music lovers out there. 

Music sales grew 0.2% to $7 billion last year. It's a modest gain. But it's the first time the industry has seen growth since 2004, according to report released today by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Here’s how it breaks down:


Single downloads were up nearly 11% from 2010, while album downloads were up over 22%, with over one hundred million sold. Subscription users jumped nearly 19%, and revenue from those services topped $240 million, while royalties from digital downloads rose 17%. Digital sales grew 9.2% last year. Clearly, all the real growth in the music industry is all coming from the sale of digital music.


Physical media continued to take a hit, but less of a hit than it has been taking in recent years. While CD sales alone bring in more than double the amount of money that digital sales currently do (over $3 billion compared to $2.6 billion) overall sales slipped nearly five percent from 2010, with revenue slipping 8.5%. It is not surprising, but this another clear sign that CDs, while still extremely profitable, are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Overall physical album sales were down 4.5%, while revenue was down 7.7%, a smaller decrease than in the past few years, but still not a good sign for the future of the industry.

One surprising statistic to did show up in the sales of physical albums: vinyl sales rose nearly 30%. It seems that, despite the rapidly growing sales of digital albums, there will always be a market out there for people nostalgic for the good old days.


Despite only growing by 0.2% from 2010 to top $7 billion in total sales, that is an extremely significant number for the music industry, as it is the first time in seven years that they are not seeing sales go down. 

But even more significant than that: for the first time ever, digital sales accounted for 50% of total shipments. Digital music might have a way to go to catch up to the amount of money still brought in by physical media, but with the way things are heading, next year is looking to be the first year in history where the majority of music shipments will be digital.

It's official: the age of the digital download is here to stay.

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