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Digital Music Sales Fell for the First Time Since iTunes Launched

by Brandon Russell | January 4, 2014January 4, 2014 4:00 pm PST


Digital music sales decreased year-over-year for the first time since Apple launched the iTunes music store back in 2003. According to Billboard, sales of both individual tracks and albums fell—individual tracks went down almost six percent, while there was almost a negligible difference in album sales, falling 117.7 million units to 117.6 million. The dip in sales is being attributed directly, not to pirating, but to streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora and even Apple’s own iTunes Radio.

There’s a silver lining, however. While the growth of ad-supported and paid subscription services are cannibalizing digital sales, the sheer growth “has been offsetting the decline in digital sales revenue,” according to industry executives. Among expansions, free tiers and improved selections, streaming services have quickly come to the forefront for most music lovers—Pandora, Spotify and Rdio alone announced new free listening tiers last year. Meanwhile, iTunes Radio and Pandora are all set for expansion around the world in 2014.

The largest dip was seen, unsurprisingly, with physical media—CD sales dropped from 193.4 million units in 2012 to 165.4 million units in 2013. That doesn’t mean iTunes wasn’t a popular digital destination. Recently, Beyonce’s surprise new release on iTunes became the fastest selling album on the service, showing that people are still very much interested in buying music—though streaming is becoming an increasingly popular alternative.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...