Sunday, September 09, 2007

CD Sales Down... How Accurate are Those Numbers?

We've all heard the statistics over over the last few about CD sales plummeting, largely due to music downloading (mostly illegal ones). Everyone seems to assume those stats are accurate and that the sale of recorded music is a business permanently in decline.

But I heard an podcast recently that made me question these stats and some of the assumptions behind them. Namely, who conducted the research, what channels of CD sales did they measure (and which did they not cover), and how much of recorded music sales do they actually cover?

The LiveWire podcast from Portland, Oregon featured an interview with Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby, the successful online seller of indie artist CDs. I first heard of CD Baby about eight years ago when I noticed that a number of my favorite folk/Americana artists were selling their albums there.

Sivers said that contrary to the doom and gloom figures about declining CD sales, sales of independent music CD were actually up 60% or so over the last few years, I believe. So are the doom-and-gloom figures reported over the last few years only measuring CDs from major labels and not indie outfits? Do they cover only major bricks-and-mortar outlets and big online sellers like Wal-Mart and

The discrepancy between the much-quoted stats and Sivers's figures make me wonder. After all, music sales charts rely on SoundScan, which is known to count sales from certain outlets and is accepted to exclude other channels.

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