Mobile sales experienced a big drop, subscription service revenue dipped slightly and digital track revenue had a healthy increase in 2010. These and other statistics are available in the RIAA's 2010 Year-End Shipment Statistics report at the organization's website. Nielsen SoundScan tracks purchases of digital tracks, digital albums and physical formats; the RIAA's annual report offers insight into other formats and products and revenues not tracked by SoundScan.
Mobile sales fell to 221 units in 2010 from 306 million units in 2009, a 28% decline. The mobile category includes master ringtones, ringbacks, music videos, full-length downloads and other items downloaded to mobile phones. The 28% decline stems from sharp declines in ringtones, down 41%, and ringbacks, down 26%. Full track mobile downloads dropped 23%. The RIAA considers full track mobile downloads to be full track purchases made on mobile devices through online stores rather than mobile content stores.
Subscription services were a mixed bag last year, according to the RIAA figures. The number of subscriptions increased to 1.5 million from 1.2 million in 2009. But the revenue labels received from those subscriptions fell to $201 million from $213 million, a decline of 5.7%. Taking less revenue for a 25% increase in subscribers could be considered a fair trade since labels and publishers should desire more people, not fewer people, using subscription services. If they're the future, it's better to have more consumers using subscription services, telling their friends about them, sharing music with them and giving feedback on them.
The RIAA's report includes some items tracked by SoundScan, whose 2010 unit sales are already known. But this report includes the value of shipments (or sales for digital formats). So while we already knew digital track sales rose by about 2% in 2010, we didn't know the value of those sales until now. The RIAA puts the increase in value at 12%, obviously driven by higher prices for popular tracks. That works out to an average price of $1.18 per track. In a scenario in which tracks are priced at $0.99 and $1.29, track sales would average $1.18 per track if 63% of sales were $1.29 tracks and the other 37% were $0.99 tracks.
Digital album revenue rose 8.6% on an 8.8% increase in unit sales, meaning the average price of digital albums barely changed in 2010.