Pop music is streaming more than selling

One brutal truth emerges from Nielsen SoundScan’s report on trends in the music industry for the first half of 2014: Today’s consumers are far more interested in seeing and hearing pop music than buying it.

Album sales dropped nearly 15 percent compared with the same period last year, and overall music consumption, which combines sales and streaming activity, dropped 3.3 percent, according to figures released by the sales and streaming monitoring service.

But taken individually, on-demand streaming of music and videos showed a combined increase of 42 percent during the first half of this year, with video streaming up 35 percent and audio streaming jumping just over 50 percent compared with 2013.

“With on-demand streams surpassing 70 billion songs in the first six months of 2014, streaming continues to be an increasingly significant portion of the music industry,” Nielsen Entertainment senior vice president David Bakula said in a statement. “Streaming’s 42 percent year-over-year growth and vinyl LPs’ 40 percent increase over last year’s record-setting pace shows interest in buying and consuming music continues to be robust, with two very distinct segments of the industry expanding substantially.”

In fact, the only area in which sales increased was those of vinyl albums, which still represent a tiny portion of the overall music business. The continuing resurgence of consumer interest in vinyl was reflected in the 40.4 percent increase in units, from 2.9 million in the first half of 2013 to 4 million so far this year. That’s still just 3 percent of total album sales of 120.9 million units during 2014, combining CDs, cassettes, LPs and digital albums.

The best-selling vinyl title of the year to date is Jack White’s “Lazaretto,” which sold 49,100 12-inch discs.

Little else in the report gives those in the music business much to celebrate. Just one album, the runaway hit “Frozen” soundtrack, has sold more than 1 million copies during the first half of this year. “Frozen” has logged 2.7 million copies during the calendar year, and just this week pushed past the 3 million units mark overall in North America since its Nov. 25 release.

In second place is Beyonce’s “Beyonce,” another 2013 release. The album has tallied just over 700,000 copies sold in the year’s first six months. Five of the Top 10 sellers have not reached gold status of 500,000 copies.