RIAA Touts First Sales Uptick Since 2004

Uplifting sales news arrived this week from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The trade organization reports that for the first time since 2004, U.S. music sales are up .2% vs. the previous year. RIAA sales data differs from Nielsen SoundScan’s accounting because it is based upon the dollar value of net shipments not units sold. RIAA, whose members are the music labels, also certifies Gold®, Platinum®, Multi-Platinum™ and Diamond sales awards.

For perspective, note that the 2011 total digital and physical sales of $7.007 billion is still less than half of the industry highpoint of over $14.584 billion in 1999. According to the just-released report, this is also the first year that digital sales edged out physical formats, moving from 46% last year to slightly over 50% for 2011.

Digital sales are growing. The RIAA digital categories include singles, albums, kiosk and music video which together increased 17.3% to represent a total of $2.6 billion. Digital album sales value jumped 25% to account for $1.1 billion of that $2.6 billion total.

Subscription services aka “access models” surged 13% to a new high in 2011 of $241 million. Users increased from 1.5 million to 1.8 million. Subscription revenue and its 1.8 million users is still an extremely small segment, but industry eyes are paying close attention to this category.

Digital performance distributions which includes payments to performers and copyright holders for webcasting, satellite radio, and other non-interactive digital music services, increased 17% to $292 million in 2011. Revenues from digital performance royalties for the first time surpassed the sales of ringtunes, ringbacks, and other mobile products, which fell 38% to $277 million in 2011.

Sync royalties are included for the first time this year. The sync category increased 4% this year to $196 million and its inclusion helped to push the overall total into the .2% positive territory.

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Journalist, entrepreneur, tech-a-phile, MusicRow magazine founder, lives in Nashville, TN. Twitter him @davidmross or read his non-music industry musings at Secrets Of The List

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