Physical album sales suffered this week, dropping below one million units for the week ending March 26.
According to a tweet from Chart Data, Nielsen Music reported that 979,000 physical album units (vinyl records and CDs) were sold last week. This is the lowest recorded sales week (and first time sales have dropped below one million) since Nielsen started keeping track in 1991.
The dip comes as the United States shut down non-essential businesses, including record shops, across the country due to the COVID-19 crisis. Despite shops asking customers to support them online, it wasn’t enough to drive up sales.
Physical sales have been on the decline for years as streaming becomes the biggest part of music revenue. The RIAA reported earlier this year that CDs and vinyl records brought in approximately $1.15 Billion in revenue for the music industry in 2019. CD sales in particular continued to fall, dropping 12% in the last year. While vinyl had another huge surge in sales, it wasn’t enough to bring physical sales into the black. To compare, streaming had its biggest year last year, bringing in more than $8.8 Billion in revenue for labels.
Surprisingly, however, streaming numbers didn’t go up in the wake of the stay-at-home orders either. In fact, with the exception of streaming video on sites like YouTube, those numbers went down by 3.5% in the last week.
It is expected that even more businesses could be affected in the coming weeks by COVID-19, which would drop sales even further.