Nielsen: The Beatles on iTunes Store help U.S. music sales post dramatic increase

Music sales in the U.S. are up 1.6 percent in 2011, according to The Nielsen Company, as digital album and track sales saw dramatic growth through May 8. While physical albums saw a decline in year-over-year sales from the same period in 2010, digital album and track purchases went up 16.8 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively. Digital retailers received more than half of all music transactions, propelling a 12.4 percent growth in sales over last year.

Catalog album sales are up 5.4 percent in 2011, thanks in part to a long-awaited 2010 deal allowing digital distribution of The Beatles’ albums for the first time. Other trends reported by Nielsen include:

• Vinyl sales increased 37 percent in the beginning of 2011 over the same period last year. Vinyl sales also rose 14.2 percent in 2010, although they only accounted for 1.2 percent of physical sales.
• 2011 saw the most successful Record Store Day in the event’s four-year history. Album sales at independent record stores increased over 39 percent the week of Record Store Day (April 16) from the prior week – an increase of 180,000 units – and 12.7 percent compared to 2010.
• Rock is the most popular genre of music, with 32 percent album share, while pop music represents 40 percent of all current digital tracks sold.
• Ninety-three of the 100 best selling vinyl albums in 2011 fall within the Rock or Alternative genres.

Nielsen Digital Track Sales 2010-2011

“Strong releases and aggressive promotions by the labels and retailers are among the many contributing factors to the strength we’re seeing in the music industry,” said Dave Bakula, SVP Analytics, Entertainment for The Nielsen Company, in the press release. “Overall, the data reflects a continuing strong demand by music consumers.”

Nielsen Vinyl Album Sales 2010-2011

Source: The Nielsen Company


    1. No, I believe that is vinyl, since it is going up. They note “…physical albums saw a decline in year-over-year sales from the same period in 2010”. I assume that CD sales are the majority of “physical albums” sold.

  1. They must be grasping at straws. Who the hell buys Beatles any more? The old fogey market must be dying out by now. Can’t be the Queen buying up every Beatle album in sight to fill her iPod. Probably destined for the landfill. It’s all noise & bad music to me.

      1. As a matter of fact yes, I do have Britney Spears on my iPod. I can’t understand what’s with Beatles music? I mean what the hell is it about Beatles music that people pay money to listen to? I don’t get it.

        1. @Ballmer’s
          You’ve made some really good comments on MDN so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on this one. My 12 yr old granddaughter discovered the Beatles on her own, no help from me, (Yellow Submarine). A whole generation is discovering this music.
          And, the Beatles are to be appreciated for all that they brought to the music scene all those years ago.
          You are forgiven for not knowing enough about this band, a band that has been one of the top five grossing bands for the last three years that I know of. Not bad for a band that broke up 40 years ago.

        2. Guess what dude, people have different tastes in music. That’s why there are so many varied genres out there. Just cos you don’t like it doesn’t mean millions of other don’t either.
          One of the things that makes music so wonderful is that there are so many different types out there.
          As for the Beatles – they did some good stuff, revolutionized popular music and brought it some interesting new concepts.
          Oh and by the way I have both Beatles and Spears song on my iPod/iPhone.
          It’s hard to be open minded when you’re living in a sweaty lice infested environment but give it a try scrotum boy.

        3. B.l.n., are you intentionally trolling by dissing The Beatles just to get responses and a laugh? Or do you seriously have no taste? The Beatles may be somewhat dated but compare them to their contemporaries and you realize that they were nothing short of revolutionary.

          OK. One embarrassing admit: I have ABBA in my iTunes collection (but not on my iPhone – someone might notice).

        4. If you actually lived in that time, you know how amazing the revolution of music was when The Beatles came on the scene. They were the follow up to what Elvis and Buddy Holly started. Today this sound seems normal, back then it was WOW, it was so DIFFERENT and amazing—and they wrote their own songs, not common back then. And The Beatles changed and KEPT getting more unique and amazing. Plus we got lucky and they were kinda cute and funny too. And all the competition followed them and copied—kinda like with Apple.

          No way to explain the enormity of The Beatles period of music and culture. You had to be there. And 40 years later, they are still popular and relevant. They are the modern time equivalent of the classical composers that are still played today. It will be a long time before we ever see that kind of creative change in music that lasts so long. Esp. with the current crop of no-talent Sexy Soft-Porn Models-Sing-Music we have for artists in this latest trend of artists (if you can even call them artists anymore, they more like processed cheese slices).

          The music industry has come full circle. It’s returned to a pre-Beatles time when there were just singers hired to be an image. Style over substance and creativity. Just like pre-Beatles singers, they don’t write their own songs, just told to sing what’s wrote for them packaged with an industry crafted image, sound and PR that attracts media. That’s how it was in the 40’s through the 50’s. The only difference was THOSE olden day singers could really sing, they weren’t pitch corrected via fancy audio equipment.

      2. The Beatles. It only means quality in music. They are so beyond “old” I don’t think it matters anymore. What matters is the music. Depending how good you know how to listen to music, you can pick up on things important to understanding all music more easily from the Beatles’ catalog of music that you simply cannot get anywhere else.

  2. I find the resurgence in vinyl perplexing. Most of the arguments for how vinyl records sound better are a load of delusional audiophile bullsh*t, if you ask me. (Audiophiles are the nutbags who spend money on expensive audio cables and who used to think you could make a CD sound better by coloring the edge green with a marker.)

    They’re easy to damage, they wear out, they’re susceptible to heat, they attract dust like a magnet, they’re not portable, selecting tracks is a royal pain unless you’ve got the hands of a surgeon — in short, vinyl LPs are one big pain in the ass. When I saw my first CD at age 21, it was like a godsend.

    So who’s buying these things? Nostalgic oldsters with too much disposable income? Surely DJs alone can’t account for the rise. Am I supposed to believe that today’s hyperactive, attention-deficit kids are getting into the habit of staying in a room for 45 minutes to listen to a record? (And getting up to flip it after 20; that’s an annoyance I forgot to list.)

    Honestly, I don’t get it. I don’t care how “warm” audiophiles have convinced themselves LPs sound (what the f*** does that even mean), who in their right mind would trade carrying around a complete library of music in their pocket for listening to five songs in a row on a record player?


    1. I would hardly call 1% of the market a resurgence.
      Maybe vinyls are cheaper still than CD. Plus it could be that the kids think it is hip. There are several USB record players now so the equipment has also become available and easily connected to a computer.
      On the quality side I agree it is hard to tell the difference between vinyl and CD.
      I did a test once with my own rig that had a Planar 3 turntable and an good quality CD player (can’t remember name) playing through the same AMP and speakers listening to the same song and trying to tell the difference. I could not hear anything between the two but then my hearing range on the high end is shit.
      Saying that I did record several Pixies albums onto my Mac and ripped them into iTunes. Shared the albums with a friend and he remarked about the pleasant sound of clicks and hisses that you get from an LP. Sometimes perfect isn’t as good as it sounds.
      On the other-hand I generally do prefer the lack of noise that digital provides. I didn’t like the prices of CDs especially in the early days.
      The godsend for me was when iTunes came out. I ripped all my CDs at work and home and could listen to whatever music I liked. The only pain was the CD players were crap, jumped and only had one album. I remember at the time thinking how cool it would be if the music library on my Mac could be in a portable player. 6 months later Steve walked on stage…..

    2. LR, Agreed. Vinyl is way overrated. Of course, you and I grew up with vinyl so we know about all the drawbacks from our long sordid history with vinyl in our youth.

      But you forgot to mention some significant technical deficiencies vinyl has that CDs do not. While it’s true that frequencies approaching the 20 kilohertz range can be reproduced better with a fresh print on good quality vinyl, we’re too old to hear the difference. Plus you’d need a really good receiver and set of really good speakers.

      One of the drawbacks of course is background hiss. But you’ve also got wow and flutter to contend with, something that is impossible for a CD to generate. Additionally, CDs offer a much broader dynamic range than vinyl can offer. Not that you couldn’t manufacture a vinyl record with a wide dynamic range but if you tried to play it the needle would jump right off the track. So, to ensure this doesn’t happen the labels compress the music in a similar manner that radio stations do (I do know someone who actually likes the sound of radio because of this – go figure).

  3. I recently bought a new record player (turntable) to digitize my old “vinyl” collection. It’s been fun listening to them again (as I convert them), but I would never buy a new vinyl album.

  4. They told me I would never forget that day. And I really thought I wouldn’t… But alas, I can’t remember the day when the Beatles were first sold through iTunes; when was it?

  5. I begged, pleaded, and waited for The Beatles on iTunes since iTunes began. They too so long that by the time it happened, I didn’t care anymore. I haven’t even bothered to buy a single song. If they had come out with a fully loaded commemorative Beatles iPod, I likely would definitely have bought that. Wish they would still do that, it might spike sales again.

    1. Not much need to buy anything from iTunes as far as the Beatles are concerned when you could/can rip either the 1990 releases or recent remasters as Apple Lossless. Yep they did take too long to bring them to iTunes but on the other hand like classical music they’ll keep selling in reasonable numbers pretty much forever. But I think surviving Beatles Paul and Ringo already have plenty of money for the remainder of their lives. And yep I had hundreds of LP’s and couldn’t wait for CD’s. The experience I was looking to hear was as if from an original reel to reel magnetic stereo or mono master, not a second class experience from a vinyl copy. If you’ve ever done audio engineering and enjoyed creating music that way, you know what I mean. I wanna hear what the recording engineer heard.

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