Digital music sales up 15% over last year, 1 billion songs already sold

October 6, 2012
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There is no denying that services like Spotify and Rdio are great for listening to music, but they may not be the future of all music like some people may think. A recent Nielsen report shows that digital music sales aren’t slowing, and actually will likely break last year’s sales record.

Digital music sales are up 15 percent over 2011 so far this year. With 1 billion songs already sold, Nielsen is fairly certain that last year’s record of 1.3 billion songs sold will be broken in 2012. With Google, Amazon and Apple all banking heavily on selling digital music downloads, each of these companies is certainly made happy by this news.

While the days of downloading music for free from file sharing sites are hardly behind us, people seem more likely than ever to pay for downloaded music. This could be for a number of reasons, but convenience is certainly chief among them. When the choice is between either going to a record store and buying an album, ordering an album online and waiting for it to ship, or pay a few dollars and listen to it immediately, the instant gratification of the latter is very appealing.

While streaming services offer the same instant gratification that buying music digitally does, they’re not without their caveats. First, while they do offer a lot of music, there is plenty of music available for downloading that isn’t available for streaming. Second, while streaming apps are available on a lot of devices, you can’t yet stream your music everywhere. With a downloaded song or album, users don’t need to worry as much about compatibility.

In a way, it’s likely that streaming services are actually helping digital music sales. With customers able to listen to full albums before purchasing them, they can make more informed purchases and are therefore less wary of purchasing songs or full albums.

It doesn’t seem to stop at music either. It seems that people in general are more likely to buy things digitally lately. Google’s recent announcement of 25 billion total downloads in the Google Play Store is a great example of that. The rise of ebooks is another sign that people are growing more comfortable with paying for digital content.

Senior Vice President of Client Development for Nielsen David Bakula says “As we look ahead, it’s clear that digital music purchases—and consumption through streaming sources—will continue to grow, and that consumers’ appetites for digital music will change at the speed of technology.” Whether digital downloads, streaming or a combination of the two will lead in the future remains to be seen, but it’s clear that consumers are increasingly looking towards digital means to get their music fix.

How do you prefer to listen to music?  Streaming services, digital downloads or both? Have you found yourself spending more on digital music purchases lately?

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