Another year, another collapse in CD sales.

For the eighth time in nine years, U.S. album sales declined. That’s according to data compiled by Nielsen SoundScan.

Album sales fell to fell to 373.9 million units, a 12.7% decline from 2008. Total sales fell a whopping 52% since 2000. CDs still account for almost 80 percent of all album purchases.

Paid online song downloads continued to grow, but at a pace that was too slow to make up for lost CD sales.

1.16 billion individual songs were purchased digitally, an increase of 89 million units, or 8.3%, from 2008. That represents a significant slowdown in digital-sales growth. In 2008, sales of digital songs increased by 226 million, or 27% over the previous year. Digital downloads now account for 40% of music purchases.

For the Year:

• Taylor Swift’s  “Fearless” released in November 2008, sold 3.2 million copies in 2009 (total sales = 5.3 million copies.)
• Susan Boyle’s “I Dreamed a Dream,” which came out only six weeks ago, sold 3.1 million.
• Michael Jackson’s “Number Ones” was No. 3 for the year, with 2.4 million sales; Lady Gaga’s “The Fame” by  is No. 4, with 2.2 million in 2009; Andrea Bocelli’s “My Christmas,” was No. 5, with 2.2 million

For the Decade:

• The best-selling artist of the 2000s was Eminem, selling 32.2 million albums;
• The Beatles’ were a close second, selling 30.2 million albums;
• Tim McGraw was the third-best-selling artist of the 2000s, with a total of 24.8 million; Toby Keith was 4th at ~24 million; and Britney Spears was No. 5, at just under 23 million.


Albums by Swift and Boyle Top 2009 Charts, as Sales Continue Plunge
NYT, January 6, 2010

U.S. Album Sales Fell by 13% During 2009
WSJ, JANUARY 7, 2010

Category: Consumer Spending, Digital Media, Music

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

36 Responses to “CD Sales Continue Free Fall in 2009”

  1. drpaul says:

    Does a ringtone count as a song download? It’s still a royalty payment for the industry…

  2. jonpublic says:

    I wonder if CD sales at shows are counted….. that’s where I get all my cds these days, otherwise it’s all purchased online.

    I’m talking about smallish indie shows. $10 bucks out the door with a sticker or button. No big names.

  3. jonpublic says:

    How much of the economy is underground nowadays?

  4. alfred e says:

    Well Duh. Look at CD prices versus cost versus RIAA greed and corruption. And how the musicians have been screwed for decades.

    iPod downloads for what $. 99 a tune or less. That’s a ceiling for CDs. But the fact is very few CDs contain all that many tracks worth downloading.

    The fidelity sucks. Production values suck.

    BR has done a great job of finding values. Well worth the money. Most aren’t that diligent or energetic.

    Or perhaps BR has a bunch of people (employees?) tipping him.

  5. bman says:

    I wonder how long it will take the economist to decide we don’t need songs anymore.

  6. ddrich says:

    Most of the music my kids listen to is just packaged commercial crap. In fact they listen to more ’60s, ’70s, ’80s music than that from the last ten years. They can tell me the song names and biography of artists that I’ve forgotten about. Not so much with the recent past.

  7. ddrich says:

    and they buy a lot of CD’s, but they are used from my generation. That’s good because I’ve only got the pressed LP’s and they don’t travel well.

  8. Greg0658 says:

    I have a collection (biggest in this blog I’ll bet) .. and with Napster subscription why pull it off the shelf .. $10 a month is a super jukebox and a mouse and fingertouch away .. and when:
    The Alan Parsons Project – Psychobabble
    is’nt available for some reason .. the whole album is missing from the Nap .. there is^
    fyi – diggin for the 1st time “Vulture Culture” via the Nap’er
    just an fyi for the universe .. hope I don’t mess it up :-) :-| :-(

  9. beaufou says:

    What do you expect from an industry that has done nothing but promote shit in the last few decades?
    Keep downloading guys, let the real cats pull out of this mess playing live.

  10. jonpublic says:

    @Greg0658 What do you want to bet you’ve got the largest album?

  11. investorinpa says:

    Lady Gaga’s CD is incredibly good!

  12. I have to stop and think for whom is a cd a benefit over an mp3? Only someone with crappy phone and a 5-15 year old car. Both of which will be replaced in the next couple of years or so then it will be all Christmas CDs and grind to a hault. And to think that crappy clam shell survived the whole life cycle

  13. Andy T says:


    It’s been over for a few years now. Good luck with those pretty discs.

  14. alfred e says:

    Unfortunately I learned too late mp3 fidelity really, really sucks.


    Most of the down loadable music seems to have had its fidelity intentionally fucked. The same is true of most internet music. But not all.

  15. gloppie says:

    I’ll stick with free music on, or better, live Music.
    The music “industry” has a big problem: it’s become an industry indeed, quite a while ago, and forgot where it came from.
    Originally, it was about bringing Art to the people while making a living, now it is only about returns and marketing studies. I have become utterly uninterested about all of this sorry lot.
    True Art can’t be sold, only experienced. The stuff one can sell on large scale is not Art in the end, only lullabies and sing along. The same reason why Hollywood will never be Cinecitta…..

  16. Joseph Martinez says:

    Does anybody have bootleg copies of the 12/30/2009 and 12/31/2009 Furthur shows at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium they can send me?

  17. gloppie says:

    I need to add that as far as I’m concerned, Vinyl sounds better than CD. I buy a lot of Vinyl, mostly from thrift places, and enjoy Music better that way. CDs are harsh and cold, the emotion doesn’t come through, at least for me. MP3 is a disaster, it is a lossy compression scheme, as in you loose some of the music. Supposedly some guy at Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft did a model of the human hearing, averaged it, and used the results to decide what could be omitted during musical reproduction.
    Sounds like auditory ponzi to me :c)

  18. VennData says:

    Solution? Make all music in 3D.

  19. FrancoisT says:

    “Unfortunately I learned too late mp3 fidelity really, really sucks.


    I’ve compared the two media on my logitehc speakers…and then the Bose Companion 3.

    I can’t tell the difference with the later. :-D

  20. Jojo says:

    If you can’t easily tell the difference between MP3′s and full fidelity CD’s played on good equipment, then you’ve either got a hearing problem or your listening to something like Black Sabbath…

    As to CD sales, I rarely buy new ones. HTere are too many good used ones available in my area. I have around 1200.

  21. I have a decent, middle of the road audio system, one that I would like to upgrade: Marantz Surround Sound Reciever, Kef QM10 bookshelf speakers up front, satellites for surround and a center channel and subwoofer.

    The difference between CDs and MP3s are nite and day

    (I’d like to replace the system with Dali Speakers and Arcam separates, but Missus Big Picture wont let me . . .)

  22. Doc at the Radar Station says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but MP3s (even at 320 kb/s) have compressed dynamic range and the bass seems dull and thin compared to the CD originals. With the revolution in storage capability and broadband speeds why not have the option to buy and download WAV files? As far as “content” goes… I think the “Peak Rock ‘n’ Roll” theory has some legs. Maybe we will get a black swan event like “Smells like Teen Spirit” soon? Fingers crossed.

  23. jnutley says:

    MP3s are aimed at IPods, how many IPod users pony’ed up for an attached woofer?

    Music has moved from ballrooms and dance-halls in the early 20th to clubs and stadiums in the late 20th and now directly into people’s individual ears in the 21st.

    How many of you gather in the living room after dinner and put a cd on your system for everyone to listen to?

  24. [...] CD Sales Continue Free Fall in 2009 (The Big Picture) [...]

  25. phb says:

    is that flat tinny sound from my MP3 files what you all are talkin’ about? Thought it was jes me and I spent a ton at the outlet mall Bose store fer an upgrade…

  26. bstohlton says:

    While album sales are down, total music sales (albums, singles, music videos, digital tracks) are up – 2.1%. What’s really happened is a shift in how we consume music. Unfortunately for the RIAA this shift has diverted revenue from them to the artists, primarily in the form of concert revenue. The proliferation of music, particularly via MP3, has increased consumer interest. And as a result, more and more people are consuming the music product by going to concerts, where they can better connect to the artist (something the oldtimers used to accomplish by racing to the local music store, shuffling through the LPs, and hurrying homes to listen to the new tracks over and over again on our turntables). I’m not sure this shift is necessarily a bad thing (well, maybe it is for those with slow evolving business models). Take a look below at the revenue generated for the Top 10 acts of 2009. By the way, concert revenue and tickets sold were up year over year – no small feat given the current economic environment. Even for those at the bottom of the list, the gross figures are more than equivalent to platinum sales. How many times over would U2 have to be platinum to generate $123mm in a single year? The music has become the razor; the concerts the razor blades.

    Brett Stohlton

    Pollstar Concert Data 2009

    Rank Total Gross* Artist
    1 123.0 U2
    2 94.5 Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
    3 88.0 Elton John / Billy Joel
    4 82.5 Britney Spears
    5 77.9 AC/DC
    6 71.1 Kenny Chesney
    7 69.8 Jonas Brothers
    8 56.9 Dave Matthews Band
    9 54.5 Fleetwood Mac
    10 53.4 Metallica
    11 47.4 Nickelback
    12 46.2 “Walking With Dinosaurs”
    13 45.0 Miley Cyrus
    14 43.7 Trans-Siberian Orchestra
    15 42.8 Eagles
    16 42.7 Keith Urban
    17 42.6 Celine Dion
    18 42.2 Rascal Flatts
    19 40.8 Coldplay
    20 40.7 Paul McCartney
    21 37.2 Phish
    22 35.4 Brad Paisley
    23 34.6 Jeff Dunham
    24 33.9 No Doubt
    25 33.2 Cher
    26 32.1 Lil’ Wayne
    27 30.5 KISS
    28 30.1 “American Idols Live”
    29 29.7 Toby Keith
    30 29.1 Bette Midler
    31 28.1 Dane Cook
    32 26.7 Blink-182
    33 26.4 The Dead
    34 26.4 Beyoncé
    35 26.0 Il Divo
    36 25.5 Taylor Swift
    37 24.8 Def Leppard
    38 24.2 Cirque du Soleil – “Saltimbanco”
    39 23.5 Mötley Crüe
    40 22.3 Depeche Mode
    41 22.0 George Strait
    42 21.9 Eric Clapton / Steve Winwood
    43 21.8 Kings Of Leon
    44 21.3 Leonard Cohen
    45 20.4 Bob Dylan
    46 19.7 “So You Think You Can Dance”
    47 18.8 Journey
    48 18.7 Jimmy Buffett
    49 18.5 Luis Miguel
    50 18.4 The Killers

  27. [...] CD Sales Continue Free Fall in 2009 (The Big Picture) [...]

  28. Darkness says:

    Bstohlton, ACDC? KISS? Fleetwood Mac? o__O “Walking With Dinosaurs” should be the title of that list.

  29. Christopher says:

    Tim McGraw
    Toby Queef

    Jesus H Christ….if that doesn’t reflect a society on the decline WTF does??

  30. Christopher says:

    Good luck with those pretty discs.


    They do work well as crow repellents when you hang them in the trees.

  31. Christopher says:


    Will someone….anyone….for the love of all that is holy in music….please beat this motherfucker to death with his own guitar??

  32. MikeInSF says:

    “The difference between CDs and MP3s are nite and day”

    “f you can’t easily tell the difference between MP3’s and full fidelity CD’s played on good equipment, then you’ve either got a hearing problem or your listening to something like Black Sabbath…”

    Not to stray too much OT or start a holy war, but… There is nothing inherently wrong with the MP3 format for most people most of the time. MP3′s can sound like crap but they don’t have to. Low bit rates, bad encoding, and crappy DAC’s are mostly responsible for the MP3′s poor reputation.

    My experience: Anthem AVM50, Anthem MCA50, Squeezebox media player (via digital input to the AVM50 – important), Paradigm Studio Reference speakers fed with 320K source = mucho audio enjoyment that is mostly indistinguishable from CD’s without getting up to hit the “Eject” button.

    That said, no one should be surprised by the decline in CD sales. Fewer titles are being produced and fewer places buy/sell them. Who saw that coming?

  33. badtrader says:

    @ Joseph Martinez at 1:07 am

    You can download audience recordings of both the Dec 30 and Dec 31 Furthur shows at Here’s the website with links to both shows (scroll down to the bottom to find the above two shows):

    Both shows were good but I liked the 30th best. Just listened to the aud recording of the Dec 30th show at the above page and it sounds great.

    Folks I recommend not buying MP3′s. If people stopped buying them, perhaps online sellers would get the message and get rid of this faulty (non-lossless) compression scheme. The proliferation of recordings on MP3 is like the spread of a bad virus since it degrades the music because all future digital copies will be degraded recordings (like taking a new dvd, copying it to a VCR then spreading that around). I recommend buying music in only lossless compression formats like shorten or flac (the above shows are downloadable in flac). MP3′s should shunned by those who care that the music availabe today will be preserved so it’s just as good in the future.

    By the way, Furthur has no problem with people downloading the above shows at (otherwise they wouldn’t be there – Furthur only allows audience recordings there, fortunately they’re great audience recordings).

  34. LLouis says:

    I have a VIP membership with Live365 internet radio, there’s a big difference between MP3Pro stations and regular MP3 stations. MP3Pro has more depth, kind of a 3D feeling or senssurround.
    In search of quality, it helps a lot to choose musical genres that has a lot to offer. Popular commercial music is quality limited, its a shame that the industry and so much people focus on crappy junk music and singing.
    Personally, I found great quality in Jazz, Jazz-Rock, Fusion, Prog-Rock and Experimental artists. Not a big fan of singing in general.

  35. [...] player in your car today, you will in the future:  CD sales are falling in double digit %’s every year:  18% in 2007 and 14% in 2008 and 12% in [...]