Weekly Register: Country TEA Continues Downward Trend

The 2011 TEA Index was 25% country and 27.7% all-genre.

MusicRow’s country TEA index continues to slide, moving from last month’s 30.46% to 29.77% while the all-genre bars remain firm and even slightly up from 31.65 to 31.71%. The TEA Index sums physical, digital and TEA albums (track equivalent albums; 10 tracks=1 album) then calculates the percentage of total album sales that come from TEA. The index measures the TEA effect against total album sales. (Our numbers are gathered by industry sources from Nielsen SoundScan.)

Why is country’s TEA index shrinking while the format’s album and track sales both show YTD gains? And is that a bad omen?

This is the first year we are tracking this new index, so it may be premature to make sweeping generalizations. However, there are a few things we can analyze. When album sales are up strongly, as they are at present, this tends to weight the result in favor of albums, therefore causing the index to fall. Why? Country album sales (10-track packages) are up 8.3%. Tracks are also up, but since it takes 10 tracks to form one album, that percentage is not an apples-to-apples indicator with album sales. Reading the tea leaves, the index shows that country fans still favor album packages (physical and digital) over track downloads, when compared with the behavior of all genre purchasers.

Index And Access
An issue that is harder to explain is how the new “access” models might affect the TEA index and sales. Spotify, Pandora and others offer on demand music. Eventually fans will realize they can pretty much hear what they want, when they want, wherever they want. Will they be less inclined to purchase physical discs and/or files as a result? We don’t know exactly, but album sales have already been hit pretty hard over the past decade.

In stark contrast to the dwindling recorded music business is the touring industry. Certainly the ticket biz has its share of risk, but it has avoided the sharp declines that its label brothers have endured. Is that because the live experience resonates strongly with fans? Has that industry done a better job adapting to the digital world? Lots of questions as we go forward.

Quick Glance
Country’s grid numbers eased back slightly this week. As someone who has been following these weekly chart reports for some time it is troubling to see this week’s Current Country 75 and note that chart positions 28-75 are all showing less than 2,000 units for the week. Plus total chart sales are a meager 318k units! In 2009 for example, the same week Top 75 total was 464k and in 2007 it was 581k.

Carrie remains in the top chart spot for a third consecutive week dropping 55% to about 54k units. Willie Nelson debuts at No. 4 with sales of 17k units.

Eric Church’s “Springsteen” remains the No. 1 track on the Country 100 tracks, followed closely by Luke Bryan and “Drunk On You.” Kenny Chesney sweeps into the No. 3 spot with his debut “Come Over” downloading almost 60k units.

Until next week….

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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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