Business Matters: 75,000 Albums Released In U.S. In 2010 -- Down 22% From 2009

-- About 75,000 albums were released in 2010, according to Nielsen, down 22% from 96,000 in 2009. Yeah, that's a big drop - especially when you consider that it includes both digital and physical formats. In fact, the number of new releases peaked in 2008 at 106,000. With 75,000 new releases in 2010, we're back to where we stood in 2006 (76,000 new releases that year).

Why the drop? It's probably not because there is any more or less incentive to release music. The theory that file sharing has had a "muted" impact on artist's incentive to create was introduced last year by professors Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Koleman Strumpf. "Since the advent of file sharing, the production of music, books, and movies has increased sharply," they wrote in a January 2010 paper that showed the rise in the number of new releases each year (as measured by Nielsen). Now that the number of new releases has plummeted, the professors should revisit their theory.

Chances are the drop is a distribution issue. In recent years, digital distribution opened the floodgates for everything from Indian ragas to West African highlife to have access to the U.S. market. Now the flow of releases is slowing as labels and distributors have fewer new (to this market) titles to toss into the market.

Not only were fewer albums released, but the weakest sellers took up a smaller share of new release sales. The 60,000 titles that sold from 1 to 100 units represented 0.7% of all sales from titles released in 2010. In 2009, 0.9% of sales came from the 80,000 titles that sold from 1 to 100 units. So there were quite a few new albums that sold fewer than t
en units.

Put another way, the 60,000 new releases that sold 100 or fewer units averaged just 13.3 units per title.

-- Apple has bolstered its App Review Guidelines, which set rules for app developers. Some of the new additions deal with the controversial rules for in-app subscriptions. Others address other areas such as copyright infringement and personal data.

One section deals with "simply web sites bundled as apps," which are nothing more than an app that acts as a link to an external web site. Another section deals tells developers that media-only apps that be submitted to the iTunes store - so an app that has nothing more than a song or album should be sold as a song or album in the iTunes Music Store.

It's good to see Apple setting and enforcing rules and guidelines. Google's Android Market seems like the Wild West in comparison. Even though Google has written rules for app developers, Android Market is filled with apps that act as MP3 search engines (not general search engines, but MP3 search engines) and download files directly to the mobile device. Free music, in other words. Some apps facilitate the downloading by offering lists such as Billboard's Hot 100. The Market also has apps that concert YouTube videos into downloadable MP3 files. (The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Apple Insider)

-- Here's another item on the different approaches to ticketing. Mark Tacchi, president and CEO of San Francisco-based ticketing company Vendini, had this to say in an article at TicketNews:

"Nowadays, if you want tickets you go to Google, not just Ticketmaster, and venues are realizing that. They spent money creating and marketing their brand, and they're realizing that they don't need to send their customers to another, outside brand to buy tickets."

What we have here is the white label approach vs. the one-stop shop approach. Vendini, which claims over 1,500 clients and over 11 million tickets per year, says venues want more control over their pricing and fees. And that's just what

But Ticketmaster gives venues one of the most popular ecommerce destinations and it plays up that advantage. Yesterday's Business Matters column included some quotes from Ticketmaster CEO from Tuesday's Goldman Sachs conference in which he espoused the advantages of having a strong ticketing brand and a go-to ecommerce site. Live Nation chairman Irving Azoff said the same thing in an interview with Billboard a few weeks ago. ( Ticket News)