Indie Music

Old Albums Now Outsell New Releases

1 (1)It seems 2015 was the year for back catalogs, as a recent study from Nielsen has revealed that albums eighteen months and older outsold new releases, much to the distress of A&R execs everywhere.


Guest Post by Bobby Owsinski on Music 3.0

According to the latest Nielsen report on the music business of 2015, catalog albums (defined as any album more than 18 months old) outsold newly released albums, which is the first time that's ever happened. That's even despite the huge sales numbers of Adele's 25.

In 2015, catalog albums sold 122.8 million units, while new albums sold 118.5 million, a drop of more than 9% from the previous year. Adele amount for around 7.5 million of those 118.5 million, which means that the figures would have been really lopsided had she waited until this year to release 25.

This is actually disturbing in that it means that new music is much less marketable than music of the past, a fact that will have A&R execs cringing in their boots.

It is good news for labels in general though, as they make far more profit from catalog sales than from current releases, since there's no production or marketing expenses involved.

If you really think about it, this really means is that we need a new trend in music, and the sooner the better.

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  1. One theory: Could it be that newer artists mostly appeal to the youngest demographic, which is the age group where most of the stealing occurs?
    The older demographic is more likely to actually pay for music.
    Another theory: music was better in the past. Or, at least, it generated more must-have classics whereas current music is more ephemeral (i.e. disposable).

  2. Music is just consumed differently nowadays. It’s weird that you draw these poor conclusions. The point you’re desperately trying to make, is that music used to be better, which makes you sound the same as all the other dinosaurs out there.
    Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, Ariana Grande, etc. are not marketable?
    Of course they are. Young people don’t buy albums. They want to, and can, listen to much more different songs than was possible before. It doesn’t make sense to buy an album if you want to shuffle through a thousand songs. This has already been the case since Napster, but now there are dosens of streaming services providing consumers with music. The song ‘The Hills’ by The Weeknd has more than half a billion views on Youtube. You can buy any single track you like from itunes, apple music, beatport etc. People are consuming music like never before on Spotify and Pandora; they just don’t buy entire albums as much as people used to. And people used to do this more often, because there wasn’t any other choice. For the price of one album you can listen to almost every song you can imagine for a month. Actually, it’s free if you don’t mind ads, so the choice is pretty straight forward for a lot of them.
    Older albums are sold more now, because older people are the key demographic these albums cater to. It has nothing to do with the marketability of contemporary artists.
    You could have an interesting talk about the value of new songs declining due to new forms of music consumption, but you need more than this chart and some old fartesque speculations to draw proper conclusions.

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