Album Sales Down In 2012

CDs are to blame with rapidly declining in sales, but both digital and vinyl albums are booming with around 15% growth. Have your buying habits changed?

Ultimate Guitar

Overall album sales are down in the US by 4.4% in the first 9 month of 2012 compared to the same period last year.

On the plus side, digital album sales in the US are up by 15.3%, and have sold over 1 billion units for the first time over this period.

Vinyl has also seen a dramatic 16.3% boost, but remain a niche format at 3.2 million units, according to Billboard.

The loser so far this year is the CD which recently celebrated its 30th birthday. At the same time last year there had been 151.6 million albums sold on CD - now it's down to 129.7 million, which dragged down the overall album figures.

It could have been worse. Adele's wildly successful album "21" is responsible for 4 million sales alone this year. The runner up is One Direction with "Up All Night".

As for singles, Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know" remains the best seller with 6.5 million units. Only Carly Rae Jepsen and Fun have released singles that also surpassed 5 million sales.

Of course, these figures don't factor in the impact of streaming services like Spotify. Before the year is out the industry will likely release figures to describe streaming's impact on overall music revenue, and could finally answer if streaming is a long term solution to declining music revenues. For now, it seems that digital music sales are leading the charge against a drop in CD sales.

Have your buying habits changed this year? How do you think they might change in the future? Take the discussion to the comments.

123 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Don't look at me I probably bought 25+ CDs this year.
    I've bought about 12. And I'll buy a few more as they're released (upcoming Cradle of Filth, 69 Eyes etc). But I immediately rip CD to hard drive (320 bitrate), and listen to the music exclusively via computer or mp3 player.
    Same here but except in my car. There is something about playing a whole CD in my car that's not the same when MP3s. I just love that felling of listening to an album start to finish.
    Yeah I haven't bought a CD for years until this year when I bought roughly a dozen also. I also copy them to my computer and my iPod as well as my gaming consoles but I still listen to listen to the full albums and listen to the CDs in the car because I just like it better than a bunch of downloads.
    Cradle of Filth is coming out with a new CD? I really didn't like Darkly Darkly
    The Manticore and Other Horrors, due out on Oct 30th. It's supposed to be a return of the 'punk oriented riffs' according to Paul Allender. The lyrical content is focused on horror mythos.
    Dr. Knox666
    That's sad. I like to have a physical copy in my hands, put in the CD and go through the booklet and shitt. Also the sound quality is much better than a downloaded version IMO. Just ordered 4 CDs today and can't wait to get my hands on them hehe. If the CD is going to die out I think I'll stop buying music.
    Me too. I have growing collections of both CD's and vinyl. I bought about 25 CD's in 2012. I just got into vinyl and I've gotten my hands on about 40 records. I think both formats are great, obviously better than digital. I really don't see the CD dying out in the very near future..but if it does, it will be a sad, sad day.
    "On the plus side, digital album sales in the US are up by 15.3%, and have sold over 1 billion units for the first time over this period." See, I don't get this. It's all about preferences, I get it, but why pay for something that isn't even physical? Buy the CD for the same price, instead... I'm glad that people are looking after the vinyl again!
    For some people it is a hassle to buy a CD at the store or shipped to your house and rip it to your computer. It takes time, sometimes you have to retype all the CD's information into your music library, and it just isn't worth it for a lot of people. However, I do like getting a hard copy of my favorites.
    You know, I have always wondered the same thing. Even if a digital album is a couple bucks cheaper (which it isn't, go to Amazon!), you miss out on so much of the listening experience as compared to getting a CD or Vinyl. The pictures, stories, and even just being able to hold the album in your hands is worth so much more.
    Well sometimes it's a small artist who sells their whole album online for like $5. If I'm not seeing them live to get it from the stand, might as well get the digital.
    Just to be objective, most CD's come out at $14.99(unless you're forced to buy from somewhere like an FYE, where they jack the prices to $16.99 or sometimes $19.99). The most I've seen a new release on iTunes for is $11.99, but usually $9.99. I'm saving $5-$10 buying digital. And as to the first part of your post about buying what's not physical, the bands I listen to tour in my area very rarely, so the only way I have to show support is to buy their album in the hopes that they at least see some of that money. Also, I'm really curious to see what kinda figures they can come up with when it comes to streaming services. I've been curious about that for a while.
    you obviously havent been on amazon then
    I go for them if Hot Topic or Bullmoose doesnt sell the CD im looking for. And Best Buy is my last resort, but they almost always nvr sell the CD that im looking for.
    Forgot to mention Amazon, thanks. You're absolutely right about that. When I got my iPhone I started using iTunes because I was able to download albums to it as soon as I the thought came to my mind to buy them, so iTunes is still the first thing I think about .
    It's about the music... not about having some CD in a plastic cover... MUSIC. I use spotify, so I can't be held accountable for illigal downloads and whatnot, they get royalties cause I listen to the MUSIC
    I love my CD collection, personally, the only time I ever purchase a download is if a band releases a single I like that isn't on an album yet.
    I buy almost entirely CDs. I download stuff every now and then but I prefer not to cause I like to have physical copies just in case my hard drive goes down and just to have the physical piece. I have a few vinyls but its only from favorite bands/albums. So yeah, mostly CDs for me.
    Ok, lets see... Jeff Loomis, Motorhead, Periphery, Testament, Meshuggah, Nile, Cannibal Corpse, Fear Factory, Slash, and Dethklok and Motorhead (when they're released) are the albums I've bought on cd this year. I think I'm safe.
    Nice list brotha. And I like to buy CD's as well, but I do prefer packages. Ive bought quite a few of them this yr. Memphis May Fire (with signed poster), Whitechapel (includes shot glass & pint glass, The Word Alive (huge bundle I cant even name all of the stuff), and I think the other one was Shadows Fall...but anyways I used to fileshare all the time, so im glad those days r over for me. Just bought Hoobstank's latest, Billy Talent's, Gallows, and As I Lay Dying's recently...oh and not going to lie I did purchase Deadmau5. But this is sad, Im going to most likely purchase for next wk as is: Converge, Between the Buried and Me, Coheed and Cambria, and Texas In July. Maybe Nonpoint, and Kiss, but im not a big fan of them 2.
    Diony x
    Not so many good CDs have come out his year
    Actually, I would have to disagree. Flying Colors, Van Halen, Bruce Springsteen, Rush, Lamb of God, Testament, Adrenaline Mob, Accept, and Slash (in my opinion) put out great records. Stone Sour and Soundgarden are set to release albums soon too. Obviously though, that number doesn't begin to scratch the surface of records put out in 2012 but I thought it was a good year.
    Diony x
    yeah, there were of course good albums too but not so many comparing last years
    I'd say that's a matter of taste. For me, last year had some brilliant albums but this years had a few great ones too. However, I might have to actually back you up on that in my own taste as several albums I've bought this year were actually released last year E.g. Explosions In The Sky, M83.
    "digital album sales in the US are up by 15.3%, and have sold over 1 billion units for the first time over this period" And they say the industry is dead.
    Nobody said it was dead you moron, only declining for certain genres (which happen to be most of the good genres
    There is no such thing as a bad genre and a good genre of music there is shit and excellence in every genre (for example metal and rock are mainly terrible due to the high saturation of mediocre bands at the moment but there are still acts like Maudlin of The Well, Drudkh and Sigur Ros releasing great material), no need to call me a moron either as you just come across as a dick-head when you might have a decent argument. Plenty of people have said the industry is dead, mainly from massive corporations such as RIAA trying to use it as a scapegoat for why file-sharing should be high priority on the list of issues that the governments should deal with.
    ...Obviously their accusations are not true as we have the information to show that legal downloads have increased this year. Same with the movie industry, they keep saying piracy is killing cinema yet if you look at how much money The Avengers made this year then you have conflicting evidence.
    CDs are hardly worth the price anymore, vinyls and digital copies are worth their prices
    Blame shitty musicianship, and just change in times. Its so easy to just download music. But the real fans will want the cd, there just aren't enough out there anymore
    What I don't want to see are bands and labels deciding to abandon the physical CD's and going all digital (like some bands are already doing). I like to be able to hold the CD in my hands and place it on a shelf and see my collection accumulate. Can't do that with digital music. You buy it, take the file, stick on your HD and that's it. Feels like a waste of money to me. Other than being a little more convenient, maybe a little cheaper, it's far inferior to having a physical copy of the CD.
    "I like to be able to hold the CD in my hands and place it on a shelf and see my collection accumulate. Can't do that with digital music." Cant see your collection grow? You've never used iTunes have you...?
    Yeah, growth in iTunes is the scroll bar getting a little shorter and taking a little longer to browse your library with every album you add. Not nearly the same as having the actual CD's accumulating.
    Well, I guess it could be worse. Van Halen's A Different Kind of Truth is the 6th Best Selling Album of the Year, so there are some people who still have good taste
    I prefer CD's over all other options. I have a big collection and transferred them from individual cases to those "8 CD's per front & back page" sheets about 10 years ago...then I bought 7 big 3 inch binders and moved everything to them. I'm able to store 1000+ CD's in a space about 2 feet wide by 12" high. I store the booklets alphabetically in some narrow cardboard boxes. I love being able to look through the binders and actually see the CD's or look through the colorful booklets instead of just looking at a file name on a computer.
    Most people buy vinyl to hang on their wall. Plus downloadables like itunes are gonna take over. Long live Vinyl
    I switched to Vinyl this year, and have re-purchased almost my entire collection. Beautiful collector's items and not to mention you usually get a download code for the album. Just can't go wrong....
    Dammit everyone. Quit buying One Direction CD's and buy more Metallica or Iron Maiden or good stuff like that. I don't care if everyone has a copy of Powerslave or Black Album. Go outside and pay again. This One Direction crap needs to stop.
    YES FIRST COMMENT and well... sad news. I live in a country where anything can be downloaded off the internet, and yet I still love going out and getting me a good CD.
    funny thing is, if you didn't take the time to exclaim your award of first comment, you would've taken the prestigious spot as it were. Iron... tis but a bittersweet thing.
    The funny thing is... you aren't the first or second comments... Ah, just seeing people fail is funny (unless it's yourself)...
    Damn it 2nd comment
    Nobody would have cared if you got first comment anyways.
    I love my vinyl but in 2012 hey really need to start putting download codes for 320kbps mp3 format of the record with every vinyl. It's the only thing that makes me hesitant to keep buying them cause them I have to either buy the album AGAIN, or pirate the album. Sucks
    Add me to the avid-buyer-of-CDs list. Like many other people who have posted here I want to feel that I've swapped my hard-earned cash for something tangible rather than just a collection of bits on my hard drive. Reading the case and the booklet, finding out who played what and (on a good day!) admiring the artwork is part of the pleasure of a new purchase. Having said that, I do now rip the CDs into iTunes (lossless format) so that I can have the best of both worlds. Have cake and eat it too!
    If my car played CDs properly.. I would definitely buy more CDS then songs from iTunes.
    The older I get, the longer it takes me to find out about good recordings. Give me a couple of years and I'll boost 2012's sales.
    Fail, that was meant as a reply to mysticguitar77. Stupid e-mail notifications! Dx
    But when you have stacks of physical CD's you still end up searching through them to find one to listen to. That's basically the same as having to search through an iTunes library. You can't use a quick search to find a particular song with a CD, you can't click shuffle to introduce you to some you might not have heard/heard recently. I suppose my view point on this matter comes from me being a massive computer nerd. xD
    That's why you keep it organized in alphabetical order and what not, not just all over the place. I cherish my CD collection, I know where everything exactly is, it doesn't take me a second longer than searching my iTunes library to find a particular CD I want to listen to at any particular moment and pick it off the shelf.
    It's cause nobody can make a CD anymore. There have been some decent ones but no GOOD ones.
    I still download aswell, but if I like it I definetly buy it. Works the way around too btw, if I buy a cd, i'd still download it for having the songtitles and everything, cant be bothered to type all that. Prices are ridiculous low these days. about 8-10 for something what would have been 16 a few years ago. Can't remember seeing these packages of full discographys for about 20 either
    Simple explanation: CD and digital files (be it Spotify, YouTube or illegal downloads) are roughly the same quality, so why pay? Vinyl, on the other hand, is just so much better. Still don't understand why it ever had to be replaced...
    I have quite a few CDs, but I probably have more digital music, I'm afraid my CD's would get lost or broken.
    I've bought a few cd's this year, and I still have my birthday and Christmas to look forward to. That should lead to a few more cd sales. I think it's overall been a very good year for music, and I've been very happy to buy some cd's this year.
    I enjoy the artistry that goes in to an album in whole. That's cover art, booklet, etc. I still buy CDs (if worth it - price wise), I buy Vinyl, and also purchase digitally. Now digital downloads have digital booklets to go with it which is nice, although not something I can physically hold. At the end of the day, for me, it's about the music. Before I complain about media, I'd rather complain about the actions taken to compress the s**t out of the mastered versions. The Loud Wars suck.
    CD's are now going to be put aside because more people are now downloading/buying songs off the internet. It's like cassettes, when the CD came, cassettes were put aside. Plus, nearly everyone (in MEDC's) have Ipods and MP3 players, there isn't much need for CD's, practically. However, people may buy CD's because they don't have Ipods or MP3's or because it feels like you actually own an album when you can hold it. That's the theory anyway...
    This is news? Honestly, if any one person here DIDN'T see this coming, I'll give them a free puppy and an espresso.
    I honestly didn't see this coming. Can I trade the puppy for an expresso upsize, and maybe a scone?
    I did see it coming, but an espresso and a puppy sounds lovely. I will have a doppio compana and a beagle.
    I used to always go to the store and buy CDs but this year I've only ordered physical albums online (amazon) etc and have used spotify a lot..just easier and cheaper that way..I have stacks of CDs but at this point probably gonna cut back on the physical discs aside from my favorite bands
    We live in the age of digital distribution, of course physical sales are going down. That's the natural way of things, something more convenient passes it's predecessor in popularity.
    About 3 months ago I started collecting vinyl and have about 100+ records from modern bands, can't wait until next week when I get the new BTBAM and Coheed albums in the mail, my turntable is going to be spinning all day
    Ive bought plenty of cds this year, a lot of older stuff but also 10-15 2012 releases. And will probably end up getting a lot more, i like cds.
    I still buy cds but I download or stream it first before I do so. I love staring at the booklet just like back in 80;s where I love to read my cassettes sleeve. But these days artist usually only care about making a a single and that's why the rest on the album sounds like filler. They knew that as long as the single sells on ITUNES plus having video clip with million views on youtube , it helped them to become popular and they're cool with it. Adele album might reach Diamond status but its the ONLY album that sold 10 million in last 8 years! There are no more albums like Use your illusion, Cowboys from hell, Ten, Operation mindcrime, Black, Justice for all, Seasons in the abyss, Blizzard of Ozz, Countdown to extinction, Let there be rock, Nevermind, Dookie, Morning glory, Powerslave, Number of the beast. Even metal records these days are lacking of vocal melody, is all about brutality.
    Sadly the UK had a massive drop in digital sales as well as physical copies this year. Guess we just don't want to pay anymore. Ironically I was browsing around a 2nd hand store and found a Dido CD from 2005 that still had the original price (and sale offer) on it of 2 for 30 or 15.99 each! So why the hell do people complain about prices NOW when you can get most new CDs at 8? This country makes no sense...
    I've easily bought more CDs this year than I did last year. Some people buy CDs and support the bands they like and some people just don't care. In the metal community CDs are still popular and I don't think that will ever change.
    I recently formatted my hard-drive and with external to save onto, I was forced to delete my music library. Fortunately, My CD collection remains.