As you saw in yesterday’s Metal by Numbers, there weren’t any notable heavy debuts this week, nor were there even that many metal bands selling. In fact, last week’s sales frame was the lowest-selling week in the SoundScan era, which began in 1991. According to a Billboard article, only 4.25 million albums were sold in the United States. That beats the low of 4.49 million, which was only back in October. By comparison, the highest-ever week of sales, back in December of 2000, found 45.5 million records being sold. Yeah, 10 times the amount.
Granted, it’s not that unusual for album sales to be weak in January – there aren’t that many new releases, and anyone that’s buying stuff usually does it in the weeks leading up to and the week after Christmas. But for album sales to be 1/10th of what they were 14 years ago is a little upsetting. The #1 album this week, for the second week in a row, is the soundtrack to Disney’s Frozen, and that only moved 86,000 copies. The #10 album (by R. Kelly) just sold slightly over 17,000 copies. It wasn’t until May of 2010 that sales dropped below 5 million. That happened three more times that year, only twice in 2011, and three times in 2012. However, in 2013, there were a whopping 18 weeks where sales dropped below 5 million. With the popularity of streaming services, not to mention the launch of new ones, it looks like this might be the new normal in 2014 and beyond. In fact, while labels and artists will continue to make money from streaming as more people pay for it, it might not be too far in the foreseeable future that sales dip below 4 million.