U.S. Weekly Album Sales Hit Record Low Since 1991

The music industry is setting records this week that the nation hasn't experienced since 1991: plummeting album sales. 

Billboard reported that only 3.97 million records were sold within the span of this week, which marks the lowest since the Nielsen Soundscan data tracking system came into the picture.

Sales have apparently been tumbling since the beginning of the year, and the decline is somewhat predictable when examining historical trends. Depending on how consistent the trend is, they will only continue to fall.

Overall, U.S. album sales are down 14.6 percent, digital album sales are down 11.7 percent, and track sales are down 2.8 percent. Everything is down, even CD transactions.

So what is responsible for this dramatic shift we are seeing in the music-sphere?

More consumers are streaming tunes from sources such as Pandora and Spotify, which eliminates the necessity for them to purchase it.

Sales executives are allegedly not stunned by the historic lows this year and finally admitted that streaming is destroying album sales.

The Hollywood Reporter stated in April that various record labels have initiated lawsuits against Pandora for allegedly "exploiting sound recordings made prior to Feb. 15, 1972." Recordings before that date were not protected under federal copyright, and artists were missing out on their royalty checks, allegedly.

Singer Bette Midler publicly argued that songwriters struggle to earn an honest living because of programs like Spotify and Pandora. She claimed to have made only $114 in a three-month period during which her songs averaged around four million plays.

Former "Talking Heads" frontrunner David Byrne criticized the practice of streaming music last year and declared that it is taking away creative content globally.

"What's at stake is not so much the survival of artists like me, but that of emerging artists and those who have only a few records under their belts," he warned. "Without new artists coming up, our future as a musical culture looks grim." 

Musicians fear that they will be out of work as the trend of streaming grows and their royalty checks shrink. Cliff Burnstein, whose company manages Metallica, doesn't think that's necessarily the case.

"There is a point at which there could be 100 percent cannibalization, and we would make more money through subscription services," he said. "We calculate that point at approximately 20 million worldwide subscribers."


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