back to article Old school music sales fell 8% last year

Worldwide music sales declined by more than eight per cent in 2008 to $18.42bn, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. It reported a sharp drop in the US, where sales dramatically tumbled by nearly 19 per cent last year. Sales were a little less dire in Europe where they fell more than six per …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "The music industry has blamed widespread piracy for the global decline in album and single sales"?

    Nothing to do with the world-wide recession where everyone is re-evaluating the spending of what little disposable income (if any) is left, then?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "The music industry has blamed widespread piracy for the global decline in album and single sales, as it continues to grapple with new business models, the spread of BitTorrent tracker sites and legal spats with individuals keen to give tunes away for free."

    Before i read i knew it would be blamed, nothing to do with that fact taht most new music is crap at all is it!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time to Shake Up the Industry

    This article just goes to show that the Music Industry needs to radically re-think how it makes money.

    New media format - new method of charging.

    Artists have been ripped off by the labels from long enough. I'd happily pay artists 10p a track. But I get really annoyed that I currently pay >50p a track and the artists sees less than 2p!!!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here's a thought...

    Maybe the downturn in sales has more to do with the complete shite they're selling?

  5. Hi Wreck

    Not withstanding...

    1) The content is crap.

    2) Why by a CD when there's only one decent tune which I can get on iTunes for a buck

    3) Rockband

    The asteroid has landed in pirate bay.

  6. Jamie Prady

    Economy Bad. Pirates To Blame.

    So, the music industry worldwide suffered in an economic downturn. The pirates were to blame though.

    I think the whole world's economic problems are actually the fault of pirates.

  7. Dave K
    Thumb Down

    It's always piracy

    Piracy is the only thing that the industry is capable of blaming. They're never able to look at other possible reasons for the slump.

    Piracy is definitely a factor, but the industry is still utterly unable to consider the loudness war as being part of the reason for poorer sales. Modern recordings are nothing short of squashed and distorted static with no dynamics and clipping all over the place on them. They sound rubbish and they're fatiguing to listen to. I've certainly been put off buying several albums lately due to the abysmal mastering on them.

    Yet of course this can never even be part of the reason. The industry is incapable of looking at the products they're selling, seeing the declining quality of them and classifying that as one of the factors for their poorer selling performance. No, it's all just the fault of piracy.

    That is why the music industry fails, because it's never even slightly their fault.

  8. Mark Edwards

    Falling sales does not necessarily equal piracy

    When on earth will the music companies learn?

    Physical media sales fall as more and more people get on the digital distribution train. However, digital distribution generally means that people are free to buy whatever tracks they please.

    Now, if the average CD has (say) 12 tracks on it, generally I find that there's only around 60% of the music on there that I think is really good and would go out of my way to buy if it were sold separately ... with some of the tat that the major record companies punt out this might be down to only one or two tracks per album.

    So, if I'm only buying 2 tracks or (going up to the 60% figure) even 8 tracks at < £1 each, as opposed to a physical CD costing in excess of a tenner, then I'm not surprised that there is a void in the revenues.

    Wake up music biz ... stop punting the latest telent(less) show winner/lowest common denominator trash and put out some decent music for once ... then, people will start to buy more of it.

    /rant off.

    Mine's the one with the Sennheiser reference headphones and the Arkham CD player in the pocket

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The electronics company I work for lost 30% of its sales from the year before. It's more from the economy taking a dive, not piracy. Considering that we've laid-off so many people, I don't think they'll be making as many 'discretionary' purchases either. Food or music/movies... hmmm... maybe some music exec. loves the taste of plastic, but the people I worked with want to keep their homes and feed their kids.

  10. Tony


    ..what they are saying is that the huge economic downturn which has resulted in massive drops in revenue in just about every industry in the last 18 months has in no way had an impact on cd sales at all and any reduction in their sales is entirely down to those evil Swedish men. O'rly?

  11. James Melody

    Pesky pirates

    Can we blame them for the fall in sales in the housing market as well?

  12. Scott


    Statistics can be made to show anything.

    Could it be that music sales fell 8% because the suit and ties who run the company are to lazy to go out and find talent?

    I could show them many bands in my area that, with a little work, could be putting out many hits.

    But the record companies want cheap, easy, dance/rap/hiphop crap that cost about as much as a bag of dog food to produce and the no talent teens who think this is good eat it up.

    I think this is coming to an end for the record companies. People, including teens want quality, band written music. Not this cheap rap crap they been putting out for the past 20+ years.

  13. Michael

    @Falling sales does not necessarily equal piracy

    Here's your answer .... showing all executives come from the same mould, and are unlilely to change

  14. Steve Pettifer
    Paris Hilton

    Beat me to it...

    Ananoymous cowards 1 & 2 beat me to what I was going to say. Of oucrse the indutry blames pirates - it's the easy target much like the urban 4x4/kids in hoodies/insert scapegoat here.

    Cat ill today? Blame pirates. Lost your keys? Blame pirates. Missus/Fella burnt your dinner? Blame pirates. It's getting a bit old guys and no one believes you. Re-evaluate what you're selling and who you're selling it to and then factor in the economic climate (after all, music is a luxury item) and then, when you've proven that you ahve taken this stuff into account, perhaps people might be more willing to listen to the pirate argument on the remaining discrepancy.

    Anyway, in this day and age, an 8% fall in sales is not a bad result. Many retailers are reporting that or worse and they don't have pirates they can blame.

    Paris 'cos she knows all about the pirate copies.

  15. Bob Boblowski

    Sales volume in dollars or actual number of sales?

    If you are talking about , then it only states the total sales volume expressed in US dollars declined. It doesn't say anything about the actual number of sales, or the sales volume as expressed in the respective local currencies of the different markets.

    If those actual sales figures where worse than those numbers, then for sure they would have been published, wouldn't they?

  16. Martin Lyne

    Damn Somalians

    Stealing our Guitarist's jobs..

  17. Anonymous Coward

    It's true...

    The only music I've paid for in recent years has been live music. Just about all the music my kids have is downloaded from torrents. Same goes for most of the software I have unless there's a good FOSS alternative.

    There is no effective policing of P2P file sharing and so while ever it's this easy to get away with, we freetards will continue doing it.

    I'll probably stop when I get my 2nd "Three Strikes" letter, but I've not got my 1st one yet!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Usual story.

    Yeah they blame piracy when sales are falling, but they were blaming it when they were rising but fuck it, I'm going to come out and say it.

    I don't now care even if it is piracy. In fact fuck, the way the music industry has acted in recent years towards the internet I hope it is piracy, simply because it would be the most perfect big fat fuck you to an industry who has attempted over and over to go to the absolute extremes of immorality such as attempting to force laws that are a severe detriment to people's right to privacy just to protect their failing business model.

    So I'm going to cut all the crap and debates on whether or not piracy is to blame and I'm just going to say, if it is piracy then, go piracy! keep it up pirates and give that industry what it deserves. Meanwhilst, the rest of us like me who simply don't care about their crap anymore will just continue boycotting their products and together we can say good riddance.

    I think we're at the point now where even if piracy can be defended, we don't even need to bother to defend it because frankly I think piracy against an industry like the music industry is more morally correct, than the actions of the industry itself. Put simply, piracy is the lesser of two evils and it's doing us a favour in chipping away at the greater evil.

  19. michael

    of corse

    it is not the ecomany to blame I think 8% fall it quite a good result compaired I think the demise of woolworths is probley going to cost them that much as list

  20. Elliot

    As usual, the truth is harder to spot

    There's a lot to this, most of it complex and accountancy-based and thus v. dull.

    However: remember that the major music companies used to own and operate physical distribution arms - warehouses, vans, cars, salesforces on the road with flipbooks of new releases etc etc. They've pretty much all outsourced / scaled down etc.

    What people conveniently ignore is that the cost of delivering the digital music is much, much lower. Whilst total revenue falls, profitability should rise with more digital product. Just to look at total sales is misleading. Those companies that are announcing less profits (nb "less profits" not "major losses") are the ones that are failing to adequately rationalise their operations - most of them still have not a clue on how best to deliver music digitally.

    To continually blame piracy is just plain wrong. At best it's a failure to adequately service a demand that is clearly massive; at worst, it's like watching the Titanic being steered by a drunk chimpanzee.

  21. mike


    quote :"The music industry has blamed widespread piracy for the global decline in album and single sales"

    Only because they are too embarrassed to admit that it was due to a sharp decline in talented artists.

  22. Scott Evil
    Gates Horns

    lying bastards

    It would be interesting if all torrent sites,the sites blamed for the poor business model for the record industry were to unanimously(spelling?) shut down for say 6 months just to prove that the record industry are talking out of their arses.

    As usual

    Bill coz just like him, the record industry is an over paid cunt.

  23. W

    Sort it out...

    This article is just a stream of incomparable numbers until we do something with them.

    So why don't we turn those global figures into something useful, eh?

    A) You state that [Global physical revenue for 2008] = $13.83bn = a 15% fall.

    Therefore [Global physical revenue for 2007] = [(13.83/85) * 100] = $16.27bn.

    Therefore [Global Physical revenue] decline = [16.27 - 13.83] = $2.44bn.

    B) You state that [Global online revenue for 2008] = $3.78bn = a 24% increase.

    Therefore [Global online revenue for 2007] = [(3.78/124) * 100] = $3.05bn.

    Therefore [Global online revenue] increase = [3.78 - 3.05] = $0.73bn.

    C) Therefore [Total global revenue for 2008] decrease = [2.44 - 0.73] = $1.71bn.

    This decrease as a percentage of [Total global revenue for 2007] = [1.71 / (16.27+3.05)] = the 8.85% decrease in revenue from music sales that they're claiming.

    D) Moving on...

    The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) is the organisation that represents the interests of the recording industry worldwide. Their own January 2009 Music Report {@} makes the headline claim that "95 per cent of music downloads are unauthorised, with no payment to artists and producers". So what they're claiming is that the $3.78bn [Global online revenue for 2008] represents only 5% of music that is downloaded. Ok...

    E) Let's ask ourselves two questions:

    "Has the amount of music listened to in the past year decreased by an 8.85%, equivalent to the decrease in revenue?" Very doubtful. In fact, with the proliferation of personal music player use (iPods, phones, etc...) music listening is almost certainly up. "But By how much?" We don't know exactly. But we can do some more sums.

    F) So let's do some more sums...

    And lets come back to that 95% the IFPI have referred to. If the 3.05bn [Global online revenue for 2008] represents 5%, then [(3.05/5) * 95] = $57.95bn = the potential revenue if those 95% of unauthorised were authorised an monetised in the same way as the 5%. A $57.95bn income monetised overnight would mean that [Total global revenue for 2008] increase compared to 2007 = [57.95 - 1.71] = $56.24bn.

    As a percentage figure, $57.95bn monetised overnight would represent a more than threefold increase (329%) in total revenue. (Or a 1533% increase in online revenue!)

    G) So, to sum up...

    Q1: Has listening to acquired recorded music, as an activity, increased by more than threefold?

    A1: Of course not. There's an almost insatiable demand and supply of music, but only a limited number of hours in the day.

    Q2: So how come there are so many unauthorised downloads?

    A2: Now that there's an alternative, people are less willing to pay £10 up front for twelve songs (10 of which they've never heard before).

    Q3: Would the music industry income increase by more than three times what it currently stands at if it could (by some miracle) suddenly stop unauthorised downloads tomorrow?

    A3: Of course not. But there's an almost insatiable demand and supply of music.

    Q4: So is it morally right to distribute or acquire a recording of an artists musical efforts if it goes against their wishes?

    A4: Of course not.

    Q5: Will the number of unauthorised downloads decrease if current arrangements persist?

    A5: Of course not.

    Q6: So where does the music industry go from here?

    A6: Broadly speaking, stop p!ssing around. And do the following:

    Solution (i), for downloads: Set up a legit version of Allofmp3. It had the range, the ability to select a favoured quality setting and was priced accordingly. Most importantly, it was priced attractively at around £3 to 4 for an album of mp3s at satisfactory quality. On top of that, offer decent discounts to frequent purchasers. Selling Mp3s for the same price as CDs (as is the case at present) is plain ridiculous.

    Solution (ii), for streaming/previewing: Set up a comprehensive version of Spotify: It's excellent. Most importantly, it just works. Beef up the subscription offering so that it combines with, or offers style functionality & more.

    Solution (iii), for download customers & streaming subscribers: Offer incentives. Give out prizes (festival/concert tix, signed merch, a VIP meet the artist day, etc) to your paying customers a a reason to convert from CDs and give up the .

    NB: I don't do the "unauthorised downloads" thing, I just buy from Amazon Marketplace.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @ W

    I completely agree. Since AllofMP3 closed I have spent not a penny on music, except to buy some second-hand SACDs. I used to spend $20 or so a month on FLAC downloads, but I don't know anywhere else you can get uncompressed music - certainly not on CD, it seems.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Clever people the MAFIAA

    "The music industry has blamed widespread piracy for the global decline in album and single sales, as it continues to grapple with new business models, the spread of BitTorrent tracker sites and legal spats with individuals keen to give tunes away for free."

    I’m delighted to see that the Music Mafia have a business model that is not affected by the global downturn in economy, perhaps they would like to sole the economic problems of the world and share it everybody.

    Hang on; I think I may be able to figure it out….

    Produce a crap product for relatively little overhead, have it mass produced in the third world, but sell it in the first world at a supernormal profit. Expect the gulls, sorry customers to buy a copy for each format they have, charge more for the product when there is no physical product i.e. downloads. Sue anybody who tries to sell the product at a reduced price to protect the supernormal profit i.e. CDWOW. If your name is Universal, reject all attempts to embrace new technology and revenue streams by preventing forward thinking companies like Virgin (ahem…) who want to generate new revenue stream for downloading . Sue unmarried mothers living on welfare for file sharing…. and fail. Blackmail cash strapped ISPs into cutting off people who have not been convicted of any crime from access to broadband. Sue someone else. Release untrue press release about downloading being a criminal offence when it is a civil case. Don’t give the any money gained from suing alleged downloaders back to the musicians that created the music in the first place. Demand that Girl Guides singing songs around a camp fire pay a licence fee for singing copyrighted songs (don’t believe me? Google it). Release products that were created 35 years ago and expect people to pay the same price as if was brand new.

    On second thought, I thick I see why the economy is fucked…

    Meanwhile restaurateurs continue to complain that home cooking is destroying the restaurant industry

    Can we have a steaming turd icon please?

  26. Chewy

    Vinyl sales

    Strangely the number of turntables sold increased last year according to Hifi Choice. Still it is a minority market in comparison to downloads on P2P.

  27. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Whoa! Hold on there, old fogies!

    "nothing to do with that fact taht most new music is crap at all is it!"

    "1) The content is crap."

    "Maybe the downturn in sales has more to do with the complete shite they're selling?"

    Yes, modern music is crap. Modern music has ALWAYS been crap. I'm listening to 80's crap as I type this, which I bought on vinyl, and it was so crap I bought it again on CD.

    The quality of the music (as perceived by um, 'chronologically experienced' listeners) can't really take the blame.

    "Nothing to do with the world-wide recession "

    "So, the music industry worldwide suffered in an economic downturn"

    ".what they are saying is that the huge economic downturn which has resulted in massive drops in revenue in just about every industry in the last 18 months has in no way had an impact on cd sales"

    The entertainment industry manages better in a recession than retail industry. And download sales went UP. We can't blame the recession.

    It may be that people are acquiring (by any route) less music than they used to - but I don't see any reason to believe that's true. No one would argue that if I could somehow photocopy televisions and make them available for free that it wouldn't affect sales on the high street. Why is it so hard to accept that free music might affect music sales?

    [Retreats into flame-retardent bunker, also water-resistant to a depth of 10 metres]

  28. Anonymous Coward

    RIAA translation:

    *** It reported a sharp drop in the US, where sales dramatically tumbled by nearly 19 per cent last year. Sales were a little less dire in Europe where they fell more than six per cent for 2008, while Latin America was down 4.7 per cent. The only bright spot was in Asia, with sales up just one per cent on 2007’s figures. ***

    The RIAA translator:

    1. USA has the biggest drop in sales and this obviously mean that the USA has the biggest problem with Piracy. Now it is obious that the USA is leading the world league in piracy the governmental attention should be on US to clean up its act and put in some appropriate legislation against piracy. At the moment the US would appear to be a world leading safe haven for pirates and copyright thieves; If they do not change their laws we should request for the US to boycott themselves and to pursue a self imposed trade embargo...

    2. Europe is proving itself to be a little less soft on piracy and copyright theft than the US. Obviously the legislation is going in the right direction but the governments are still not there as the loss of revenue due to piracy and copyright theft is still rather large. However it is nice to know that the governments are collaborating on some of the more prominent issues raised.

    3. Latin America is succesfully targetting the criminal behaviour of pirats and copyright thieves. The comparision between Latin America and the USA shows that the criminal behaviour of pirats cost FOUR TIMES as much in the USA as in Latin America. For Latin America this does appear to be a promising development.

    4. Asia has the last few years done a phenomenal 180 degrees turn and has no problems with piracy and copyright theft what so ever. The financial situation shows that Asia is where the actions against piracy and copyright theft has been most succesful. As a result piracy and copyright theft is mostly unheard of as a phenomena in ASIA.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    market saturation

    1. I bought a lot of Vinyl LPs; since then I got quite a few of them again in CD's. As I am forgetful I have discovered that I have several CD's in duplicates.

    2. Generally speaking I go and buy any CD I want as I think I can afford it as I would want to have the quality of recording it gives me.

    3. However the last ten years I have bought very few CD's per year in comparision and when I enter the record store I do not seem to find much of interest. Perhaps having a large collection means that there is less need for getting new stuff. As it is I can hardly find the time to listen on my existing records anyway. It is obvious that If the record industry expects people like me to continue to buy "music" in the same fashion as before then they are severely mistaken. My personal experience is completely unrelated to piracy.

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