Are things really that bad in popular music today?
According to Nielsen Soundscan’s tabulations, they are. Old school artists and music aficionados have been bemoaning the flood of pop-oven-fresh, microwaveable music for years, but now they have numbers to substantiate their claims that a large percentage of today’s music is about as appealing as an abandoned port-a-potty in the middle of August.
For the first time since Nielsen Soundscan began tracking album sales more than two decades ago, old school albums are outselling the new material coming out. According to Nielsen tabulations, 76.6 million catalog albums (records that were released 18 months ago or longer) were sold in the first half of 2012. Compare that number to 73.9 million current albums, or albums that are less than 18 months old.
Now, hold on, old school music lovers; pump your brakes. David Bakula, the Nielsen Soundscan analyst attributed that “the primary catalyst for this trend is cost.” And he has a point. Old school records are generally priced between $6 and $11 while newer joints start off at $13 for a physical release.
Among the top-selling catalog albums are four different Whitney Houston albums — no surprises there — and Guns N’ Roses Greatest Hits. Michael Jackson and Prince are, predictably, always in the mix.
The trend, music pundits point out, could also be blame on a dearth of blockbuster record releases and sales in the first half of this year. That will change with a full slate of A-listers dropping new material, including Kanye West, Green Day, No Doubt, Muse and Mumford & Sons.
How do retailers feel about this? They actually are more optimistic about this year than 2011. While album sales are down, the increasing popularity of catalog records makes the “economic outlook more predictable” than in past years.
— terry shropshire