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Resolved: A New Way To Measure Music Sales!

Posted by: Jon Fine on November 15, 2007

I was mulling over CD sales of a pal’s band, which have hit around 25,000 in the US. Not shabby, for the kind of band they are. (Broadly: oddball, brainy, indie-identified, ‘difficult’ but sort of danceable, recipients of rightfully rapturous reviews.)

Then I started thinking, ‘ok, but what would 25,000 in sales today have equaled back before the age of downloading, before music sales went into the toilet?”

It’s time to invent a metric for adjusted CD-unit sales. We already do inflation-adjusted gas and oil pricing. With music sales, of course, you have to adjust for deflation; that is, bump up today’s unit sales to what they would have been in the pre-download year of, say, 1999.

A music industry executive, working strictly off the top of his head, tells me via email that 25,000 units sold today might equal 40,00-50,000 units sold in 1999 for a band like the one I’m talking about.

Obviously, a one-size-fits-all solution won’t work here. Some genres have tanked spectacularly since downloading came on the scene—like alternative rock, and, I’m guessing, electronica. Others, country in particular, have held up relatively well.

So whoever actually wants to pursue this needs to come up with multiple algorithims and/or equations.

Because I can’t. I’m a journalist. I do stories, not algorithims and math.

Reader Comments


November 15, 2007 6:57 PM

That's a good idea, but you'd also have to come up with a separate measure....what does a CD sold equal if its sold directly by the band such as Radiohead or any number of unsigned bands.
If they're keeping all the money, 1 CD sold might equal 10 in the old record company world in terms of money in the bank.
But then, someone in the biz would have to come up with that number. Should be much easier than your algorithmic demands

Bruce Warila

November 15, 2007 9:12 PM

Here's your algorithm:
1999 - (Illegal_File_Sharing + iTunes) = 2007

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