Weekly Register: TEAs Troubling For Physical/Digital Transactions

It’s the middle of every month and time to revisit the MusicRow TEA Index. The Index sums physical, digital and TEA (track equivalent albums; 10 tracks=1 album) then calculates the percentage of total album sales that come from TEA. The idea is to measure the TEA effect against total album sales. (Our sales data is gathered by industry sources from Nielsen SoundScan. Annual TEA for 2011 was 25% country and 27.7% for all-genre.)

As our colorful graph (and the purple bars) show, country’s TEA has been sliding slowly all year—until now. All genre TEA (golden bars) started edging up slowly last month, and continues to expand this month as well. So what does that tell us? To sum it up it says, the sales relationship between albums and digital singles is remaining constant, but let’s look a bit deeper.

Country album sales and track downloads are both up strongly this year, 5.6% and 15.3% respectively. That’s good news, but nevertheless, the sales balance between albums and tracks has remained quite steady since March. The early year gets skewed because of iTunes gift cards and new holiday hardware that leads consumers to splurge on the tracks. But as the country bars show, the balance has settled down and since March stayed between 29.77-30.62%.

In the all genre world, track sales are up and albums are down, leading one to expect a TEA Index upswing. But the 10 tracks=1 album unit formula gives the album enormous weight when compared to tracks. We’ve seen a bit more volatility on the all-genre index overall, but the March-June pendulum has only traveled from a low of 31.65 to a high of 31.92.

Personally, I find these results troubling for the transactional sales market (physical product and digital file downloads). Overall album sales are down, and the rate of all-genre TEA growth is minimal, illustrating an uninspired marketplace. Does this mean that consumers are shifting toward access/subscription models like Spotify, Pandora and more? Perhaps.

Weekly Breakdown
A quick look at this and last week’s grids tell the story in a snapshot. Album sales are slipping in both categories. Country albums saw a No. 1 debut from Josh Turner titled Punching Bag which scanned about 45k units, a far cry from the 85k he scored in 2010, but then that was before his label group signed another young baritone which may have splintered his fans. Edens Edge stepped up to the launch pad getting a No. 9 position and sales of about 9k. Other debuts included Now Country 5 (No. 5; 25k) and the Rounder return of the fabulous Mary Chapin Carpenter (No 16; 7k).

Traveling to downtown Tracksville, country style, shows young males (mostly with ballcaps) #DOMN8 (where have I seen that hashtag?) Luke Bryan (No. 1; 100k), Eric Church (No. 2; 77k), Kenny Chesney (No. 4; 69k), Hunter Hayes (No. 5; 52k), Kip Moore (No. 6; 49k), Dierks Bentley (No. 8; 45k) and Eli Young Band (No. 9; 43k). Wow! All the more reason to congratulate winners Little Big Town (No. 3; 70k), Carrie Underwood (No. 7; 46k) and Gloriana (No. 10; 37k) for bucking the trend line.


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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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