In With the Old, Out With the New
Older music is outselling new music for the fist time ever.
Web2Carz Senior Writer
Published: July 30th, 2012
hey say there’s nothing new under the sun. And if you doubt the veracity of that old maxim, consider that it first appeared in the book of Ecclesiastes, written somewhere around 3,000 BCE. So for as long as there have been new things, there have been cynics saying, “It’s been done.” And while music snobs have long claimed that everything was better “back in the day,” new music has always been more popular with consumers, until now. For the first time since people tracked such things, catalog albums are outselling new releases.
The only people who bother to pay for music tend to be over 40. Younger music fans download.
According to Neilsen Soundscan, the company that tracks music sales, during the first half of 2012 consumers bought 76.6 million catalog albums, versus 73.9 million new releases. This seems like a pretty massive change in buying habits, but what do those numbers actually represent?
Neilsen chalks it up to cost. Catalog albums are typically half the price of new releases, and since Neilsen considers anything older than 18 months old to be a catalog album, there may be a percentage of music buyers who wait until the price drops on a particular release before they buy. But it seems like a stretch to say that this alone would account for the shifting balance between purchases of new and older music.
A more likely explanation would be that the only people who bother to pay for music tend to be over 40. Younger music fans download music, often from music blogs or torrent sites and are far less likely to purchase music online or from a store, assuming there are even stores in their area that sell CDs.
Another issue is that Neilsen’s rating system was set up to track sales in the old, music-business-driven world. So while it captures CDs sold in stores or through amazon or iTunes, it doesn’t measure music that is sold by the bands at shows, through their own websites or through sites like Bandcamp, which are slowly becoming the way most young people purchase physical media.
So while it’s tempting to say that these new sales figures prove that the old music is better than anything these kids today listen to, in reality it’s just that the world is changing, and as usual, the music business is woefully unequipped to catch up.