It’s no surprise that album sales have been on a steady decline since 2000, but according to Billboard, the week ending May 30 was the fewest number of albums sold in one week since Soundscan began compiling the list in 1994. The total of 4,984,000 albums stands in stark comparison to late December 2000, when there was a one week sales total of 45.4 million. Even last year, the week ending May 31, 2009 showed album sales of 5.76 million.
There’s no real way to get exact number of albums sold before the Soundscan era, but Billboard compared the number of albums shipped (the way album sales used to be counted by the RIAA) to the number of albums sold as Soundscan reported, from 1992-2009 and found there were about 30% more shipped than there are scanned. Using that equation, you’d have to back t0 1973 to find a time when there were album sales anywhere near as low as they are now.
While some point to the fact that there weren’t any blockbuster releases in the week before May 30, it’s definitely a sign that piracy and file sharing is on the rise, and as one executive puts it, is “pretty scary.” And with June releases by Miley Cyrus, Eminem and more, sales should rebound. But that’s definitely temporary, and a wake up call to any label or artist expecting to get by on album sales alone.