Vinyl sales rare bright spot for US music industry


Vinyl sales and music streaming both soared by more than 50 percent in 2014 in the United States, even as overall sales kept declining, a music industry monitor said.

With few blockbuster releases and streaming becoming more mainstream, consumers in the world's largest music market bought 257 million albums last year, a drop of 11 percent from 2013, Nielsen SoundScan said in data released late Wednesday.

The music industry saw one bright spot in the strong growth of vinyl which in recent years has become the format of choice for audiophiles and collectors.

Vinyl sales jumped 52 percent to 9.2 million, the biggest year since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991 when compact discs were becoming the dominant format. But vinyl still accounted for just six percent of overall physical album sales.

Both CD and download sales kept falling. Downloads accounted for 41 percent of album sales, the same as the year before.

Streaming services such as Spotify saw major growth with 164 billion streams of music or video in 2014, up 54 percent from the previous year.

The popularity of Spotify and its rivals -- which allow subscribers to listen to unlimited music on-demand -- has been transforming the music industry. Critics say that streaming gives little incentive for consumers to buy albums and hurts artists overall, but Spotify argues that it provides a rare source of growth in a long-troubled industry.

Chief among Spotify's critics was Taylor Swift, who pulled all of her music from the Swedish streaming service.

Her latest album "1989," in which Swift moved more definitively from her country roots to pop, was officially the year's top-seller despite coming out in late October, selling 3.6 million copies as of December 28, Nielsen SoundScan said.

Only four albums topped one million in sales in the United States, as opposed to 10 titles last year and 13 the year before.

The soundtrack to the Disney film "Frozen," which came out in late 2013, sold 3.52 million copies in 2014, a notch below Swift.

Two albums in 2014 sold just above one million copies in the United States -- British soul singer Sam Smith's "In The Lonely Hour" and a Christmas album by a cappella group Pentatonix.