Album Sales Down for Second Straight Year

By | January 4, 2003 at 12:00 AM

In more bad news for the music industry, album sales declined for the second straight year in 2002, down 10.7 percent from the previous year.

Nielsen SoundScan reported this week that 2002 album sales fell from 763 million in 2001 to 681 million. Overall music sales in 2001 had been down 5 percent – the first decline since SoundScan began tracking music sales in 1991.

Hilary Rosen, chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, blamed the decline mainly on illegal downloading of music off the Internet.

“There’s no question that the availability of free music on the Internet is not having the stimulative effect that the proponents of this piracy suggest,” she said Friday.

Citing RIAA surveys, she added, “Our younger buyers are telling us they are buying significantly less albums because they’re finding what they want for free on the Internet.”

The slumping economy also has contributed to the decrease, Rosen said, although the industry historically has not suffered declines in bad economic times.

“Our older buyers are telling us that they’ve been affected by the economy,” she said.

All music genres dipped in sales, with two exceptions: Country album sales rose about 12 percent, reversing a slight decline in 2001, and jazz titles were up slightly.

Country accounted for four of the nation’s 10 best-selling discs in 2002: the Dixie Chicks’ “Home,” Alan Jackson’s “Drive,” Shania Twain’s “Up!” and the Grammy-winning “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack.

The year’s top-selling album was “The Eminem Show,” which sold 7.6 million through Dec. 29, according to the figures released Thursday.

Rosen said the industry hopes to reverse the decline next year by cracking down more aggressively on free music Web sites, and better promoting the fee-based downloading services offered by record companies.

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