RIAA caught lying?

Today the Washington Post has an article about the recent music file-sharing lawsuit.

From the article:

Music sales have slumped in recent years as more people have turned to file-sharing.

What I’m wondering is, is this information from the RIAA themselves, or a case of journalistic slant? Information on the internet is easy to obtain, so looking at the RIAA’s own website, I’m brought to this page: Key statistics and year-end reports.

The statistics here for the last few years show some interesting trends. The first bit of interest is that yes, the total value of units is lower than it has been. Not by very much, but lower value. For those too lazy to click, in 1996 total value of all “digital and physical units” was $12,533,800,000 (12,533 in millions). In 2006, the total value was $11,510,200,000. So yes, there was a drop.

 The wording is the odd choice, though. Music sales. Does this refer to money made by music sales, or the actual number of music sales?

Total number of retail units in 1996 was 1,137 (in millions) or 1,137,000,000. Total number of retail units in 2006 was 1,583,200,000. It went up. By a lot.

This seems to imply that the number of music sales is actually UP since 1996, not down. What is down is the money that was earned with these sales. My guess is that this could be in part due to the fact that people don’t always want to buy albums, and now it is much easier to buy any single we want.

Online, we don’t have to put up with crappy “filler” songs by bands, we can pick and choose what we want to hear. And it sounds like the RIAA does not like this.

 It is important to note that the RIAA says, on that page, that if you consider a digital single as 1/10 of a unit instead of a full unit, units shipped in 2005 were only 8.6% greater than in 2005. But still, that still means that the units are increasing.

 Other interesting facts from this page are that music video sales are up in physical form, CDs are down but still significant. “Other” albums are a mere fraction of what they used to be (most likely due to the fact that it includes Cassettes, LPs, DVD Audio, and SACD, which accurately reflect an extreme minority right now). Physical singles are way down, while digital are way up (obviously).

“Units” as a, well, unit, does not include subscriptions, either.

I’m no business expert, but if these stats mean anything, it seems to indicate that the RIAA’s business model is what’s failing them, not the evil P2P networks stealing all of their business.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to contact me, James Martin.
Email me, or comment below!


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