Blog Post

Digital Singles’ Heyday May Come At Albums’ Cost

Sales of digital singles jumped by 150 percent last year; late last December, downloads of singles even outsold CDs in the U.S. — 19.9 million digital tracks but just 16.8 million albums, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Meawhile, what essentially is a novelty song — “Laffy Taffy” — has been sold as a download more than 700,000 times since late October. The Washington Post uses these numbers and more for a front-page story this morning about the rising success of digi-singles at the possible expense of albums. One contention: sales of digital albums haven’t caught on, with SoundScan reporting only 16.2 million full-length sales last year.

BMG North America president Charles Goldstuck says a balance has tp be found between singles and albums: “We want to create an artist experience, not a singles experience.” Economically, artists and labels are better off when albums are sold but, with singles fueling digital sales, they can’t afford to ignore them. Instead, the emphasis on hits is only growing, which, as we’ve written before, could start to shift attention away from albums.
One antidote isn’t mentioned: subscription music, which gives users the freedom to explore without the fixation on singles.