Mid-Year Report: Classical Album Sales Down, Digital Tracks Up

Thursday, July 05, 2012 - 06:01 PM

Academy Records on W. 18th Street in Manhattan Academy Records on W. 18th Street in Manhattan (Kim Clancy)

In the first six months of 2012, classical album sales dropped 18.1 percent to 3 million units, according to a mid-year Nielsen SoundScan report released Thursday (3.7 million units were sold in the corresponding period of 2011).

At the same time, sales of digital albums continued to enjoy modest growth — jumping 7.2 percent to 4 million units — but that was not large enough to offset the decline in CD album sales.

Andrea Bocelli had the biggest classical album with "Concerto: One Night in Central Park," selling 66,000 copies, while Josh Grobin had the top-selling digital track with "You Raise Me Up," moving 79,000 downloads.

The figures cover sales up to the week ending on July 1, the half-way point of SoundScan's tracking year.

Across all genres, album sales have dropped 3.2 percent so far this year while downloads have jumped 13.8 percent. 

After a surprise 1.3 percent uptick in total sales last year — the first increase since 2004 — the decline this year suggests a return to business as usual for the recording industry. "In the second quarter of this year, the CD album again began to act like it did during 2006-2010, when the format saw annual sales declines in the 18%-20% range," notes Ed Christman of Billboard magazine.

Of the other major genres, only country music and jazz have seen growth in 2012. Country experienced a 5.8 percent increase in album sales while jazz album sales were up 2.6 percent. 

Vinyl collectors can also take heart. The format has continued its growth, gaining 14.2 percent; 2.2 million LPs were sold in the first six months of the year, vs. 1.9 million during the corresponding period last year.

Weigh in: How do you get your music today? How has it changed from in years' past?


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Comments [6]

Classical-Luvr from NYC

Well, part of the problem is that I can't FIND classical CDs any longer. Even ordering CDs online has become increasingly difficult. Plus, the classical field seems to be innundated with cross-over artists, especially in opera / popera such as Bocelli, Jenkins, etc., and they hold no interest to me. So ultimately... I'd buy more if I could find it.

Jul. 09 2012 03:22 PM
Jeffrey D. from Manhattan

I usually try to get one album a month. Over the past year, I think that I purchased about 3-5 CD, maybe 5 iTunes downloaded albums, various individual tracks or partial albums (based on what I had been listening to on WQXR at the time), and about 10 vinyl LPs (gotta love $1 albums at the thrift stores).

Jul. 09 2012 09:23 AM

I have three new classical CDs this year but I don't know whether they qualify as "sales". A John Philip Sousa Wind Band CD and a CD of Aaron Copland music were both rewards from my Thank You points.

Great Classical Masterpieces -- Bestselling Recordings 1987-2012 was a thank you gift from WQXR, when I renewed my pledge this spring.


Jul. 08 2012 05:03 PM

Sorry, Tim Brown, I don't miss ritual/romance of LPs, needles, cartridges and stereo sound because I never left! I urge all my companions in love of classical music to give vinyl classical a try!

Jul. 08 2012 10:44 AM
rubenjuliojimenezsanchez from COCHABAMBA-BOLIVIA


Jul. 06 2012 08:56 PM
Tim Brown from Washington, DC

I haven't bought a new CD in several years. Get my music online from WQXR.org, Pandora, Rhapsody.com, and Amazon. Haven't heard music on a good stereo with the volume cranked in a long time either, only on headphones or buds or computer speakers (with a subwoofer at least.) Live concerts, and HD Met broadcasts in theaters are also music sources for me. Still miss the ritual and romance of LPs. How 'bout you?

Jul. 06 2012 02:41 PM

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