If Steve Jobs could see the figures for digital downloads today, there would be a big sheepish grin on his face. After promising to reinvent the music industry with the iPod over ten years ago, that promise is now ringing true. For the first time in the U.S. physical sales have been overshadowed by digital downloads. Adding salt to an open wound, digital downloads have not only increased to surpass the competition, but physical sales have actually fallen 5%, Nielsen SoundScan and Billboard reported.
Album sales were used as Nielson and Billboard’s metric, but downloads of 10 individual songs were counted as an equivalent to an “album”. Using this criteria, total album sales increased for the first time since 2004. Not only have album sales seen a dramatic increase, but digital downloads dominated the market, accounting for a record 50.3% of all music sales in the U.S. last year.Nielson and Billboard’s report shows digital album sales passed the 100 million mark for the first time in 2011. Reaching 1.27 billion sales last year, individual digital track downloads are also setting new records.
It has taken some time for digital sales to flourish since the launch of iTunes eleven years ago. The biggest worry for music industries being piracy, however the Internet has changed quite a bit since then. With tablets and smartphones making such an impact, consumption of digital content will only increase. Digital content was lightly-treaded territory ten years ago, but now consumers can read their favorite books or catch up on the latest How I Met Your Mother episode with one simple download.