The Single is Dead, Long Live the Single? (Part Two)

The UK Official Charts company today released figures about the number of paid digital downloads for January reached 150,000. Although this number sounds encouraging at first glance, a quick delve under the bonnet reveals a slightly different picture.

Of those 150,000 only 40 percent are actual downloads. The remainder are subscription based tethered downloads or streams. So if you want to have an apples and apples comparison, in addition to traditional singles sales other paid music formats such as MTV, DAB and Music Choice should be included. As these models have more in common with a programmed online subscription service with tethered downloads and streaming that retail singles sales do.

The numbers are also skewed by the launch week of MyCokeMusic, with 50,000 downloads. So prior to MyCokeMusic the monthly total was roughly 100,000 which is roughly 23,000, which is 4 percent of the roughly 500 000 weekly singles sales, which itself declined last week by about 24% compared to the same week last year. So downloads were 85% less than the total amount singles sales declined by.

It has been noted that MyCokeMusic shifted more downloads in one week than total 12 inch singles sales but comparison with 12 inch singles sales has limited value. The 12 inch sector is niche and experienced a late 90’s resurgence off the back of the dance music boom, but is now tailing off again as the bedroom DJs dwindle, leaving the professionals as the bread and butter of this sector. i.e. it is contracting back to it’s true size.

I will be more interested to see the February and March data. I am currently writing a report about the market opportunity for digital music services and devices in a number of key European countries and one of the issues I address is the likelihood of ‘interim stagnation’. I.e. after the initial success of a newly launched download store, sales will drop significantly until the installed base of digital music players grows.

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