Older Music Outselling Newer Releases

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Pink Floyd’s DSOTM was 2015’s top selling vinyl rock album. Not bad for a nearly 43-year-old title…

A decade ago, new releases were outselling older ones by 150 million units, but oh, how the tide has turned – and not even the massively successful Adele can stop it. (More on her later.) For the first time in history, older albums outsold new ones in 2015, according to a year-end report conducted by Nielsen. Old music in this context is defined as any release over 18 months old, and it pertains solely to physical or digital albums, but not streaming. But it’s still a powerful testament to the shifting landscape of the record industry.

Rock and roll is king, as it continued to be the #1 genre for Album sales, with nearly one-third of the total.

No doubt these latest stats have something to do with the continued revival from an old friend: vinyl. And younger collectors are opting to buy older titles. Pink Floyd’s 43-year-old Dark Side of the Moon managed to sell 50,000 vinyl copies last year as did The Beatles’ 1969 opus Abbey Road. Miles Davis’ masterpiece Kind of Blue was close behind at 49,000. Those vinyl albums ranked 3-4-5 overall.

2015 marked the 10th straight year of growth for vinyl, growing by 2.8 million units over 2014’s total. Best Classic Bands wrote about this unique development last year while covering the New Music Seminar. Streaming services make more money than physical media these days, but even as compact disc sales continue to decline, vinyl sales were up 52 percent last year, boasting over $222 million in revenue. Rock is still the biggest genre for vinyl with over 68% of the configuration’s sales.

Back to Adele, even though her 25 wasn’t released until November 20th, it still accounted for a whopping 3.1% of all albums sold in 2015. Not surprisingly, 25 was also the year’s vinyl top seller with 116,000 copies; Taylor Swift’s 1989 was #2 with 74,000.

Digital platforms may be more convenient, but as new Columbia House owner John Lippman explains, “Convenience is not the end-all be-all in experiencing media.” In an age of Internet oversaturation, curating a physical record collection has become an art form in and of itself – a visible form of self-expression and a way to connect with music a more meaningful and experiential way than merely via touchscreen. It also stands to reason that folks building a physical collection of albums are more likely to buy their all-time favorites than the newest releases. Check out Best Classic Bands‘ recent report on the Columbia House relaunch and vinyl revival here.

The trend seems to be continuing. A number of classic bands made the Top 50 sales charts just last week – David Bowie, Megadeth, The Eagles, Frank Sinatra, Black Sabbath, Nirvana, Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac, to name a few. Classic rock also continues to dominate the concert business with 10 acts among the Top 20 of 2015’s biggest tours on Pollstar’s annual year end list. AC/DC, U2 and Foo Fighters earned spots in the top five, and other biggies who made the top 20 were the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Billy Joel and Neil Diamond.

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Best Classic Bands Staff
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