CD sales are up again

OK, Tower Records is bankrupt but demand for new CDs has been booming:

…a turnaround that began quietly last fall has become unmistakable with the success of Norah Jones’s new album, “Feels Like Home.” The CD, which recently sold more than a million copies in its first week in stores, helped extend a nearly consistent five-month string of industry growth, as measured by weekly sales compared with year-earlier periods.

There is more:

First-week sales of Ms. Jones’s new album were only part of the industry’s good news for seven-day period that ended Feb. 15. Through that period, the most recent for which data are available, album sales for the beginning of 2004 were up 13 percent from the comparable period of 2003, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks music sales.

It was the biggest Valentine’s Day sales week since SoundScan began operating in 1991. And it was also the first week ever in which downloaded song sales topped two million.

Are illegal downloads really falling? I don’t trust any of the current numbers, but consider the following:

Even as download sales through Web stores like as iTunes are increasing, so is the number of people who illegally share music files, according to BigChampagne, which tracks file swapping. At the end of 2003, the most popular services for unauthorized file sharing had 5.6 million users, compared with 3.93 million a year earlier, a spokesman for BigChampagne, Eric Garland, said. Those users are now illegally trading about 250 million songs each week.

Here is the story.

My take: The baby boomers, with high disposable income, and fear of the law, are ascendant in the world of music. They are more likely to support a higher average quality of music, but less likely to support the next astonishing breakthrough. For that you need the younger kids in the market. Go Nirvana.


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