Vinyl bright spot in US music sales

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Vinyl sales and music streaming both soared by more than 50 per cent last year in the United States, even as overall sales kept declining, a music industry monitor said.

With few blockbuster releases and streaming becoming more mainstream, consumers in the world's largest music market bought 257 million albums last year, a drop of 11 per cent from 2013, Nielsen SoundScan said in data released late on Wednesday.

The music industry saw one bright spot in the strong growth of vinyl, which in recent years has become the format of choice for audiophiles and collectors.

Vinyl sales jumped 52 per cent to 9.2 million, the biggest year since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991, when compact discs were becoming the dominant format.

That was a sizeable niche for a format that not so long ago was considered practically extinct.

Jack White's elaborately manufactured Lazaretto was the top vinyl title, with 87,000 sales.

But vinyl still accounted for just 6 per cent of overall physical album sales.

Both CD and download sales kept falling.

Downloads accounted for 41 per cent of album sales, the same as the year before.

Streaming services such as Spotify saw major growth with 164 billion streams of music or video last year, up 54 per cent from the previous year.

The popularity of Spotify and its rivals - which allow subscribers to listen to unlimited music on-demand - has been transforming the music industry.

Critics say that streaming gives little incentive for consumers to buy albums and hurts artists overall, but Spotify argues that it provides a rare source of growth in a long-troubled industry.

Chief among Spotify's critics was Taylor Swift, who pulled all of her music from the Swedish streaming service.

Her latest album 1989, in which she moved more definitively from her country roots to pop, was officially the year's top-seller despite coming out in late October.

In the nine weeks since its release, it sold 3.66 million copies as of Sunday, Nielsen SoundScan said.

That result clipped the 3.53 million in sales for the soundtrack of the Disney blockbuster Frozen, putting it a notch below Swift's album. Frozen came out in late 2013.

Swift's album 1989 had held the No. 1 spot in the weekly Billboard 200 chart for the seventh time, selling 430,000 units in the week ending on Sunday, including 326,000 album copies and more than one million songs, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Only four albums topped one million in sales in the United States as opposed to 10 titles in 2013 and 13 the year before.

Two albums last year sold just above one million copies in the United States - British soul singer Sam Smith's In The Lonely Hour and a Christmas album by a cappella group Pentatonix.

 
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