Album sales in May dropped 17.8% versus May 2008, according to Billboard analysis of Nielsen SoundScan data, and were 36.7% lower than May 2007. (For these purposes, the month of May 2009 was from Monday, May 4 to Sunday, May 30.) For the year through May 31, album sales are down 13.4% versus the same period in 2008 and are down 30.4% against the same period in 2007.
Track Equivalent Albums (TEAs) were 13.1% lower in May 2009 versus May 2008. That was a reversal from the relatively successful month of April in which TEAs were down only 4.6%. Year to date, TEAs are down almost 7.6% versus last year.
The flattening of digital track sales growth compounds problems that arise from falling album sales. Year-over-year track sales were up only 5%, 6%, 2% and 5% in the four weeks that comprised the month of May. For an indication of where sales are trending over the next year, look at the early adopting Pacific region of the country (as defined by SoundScan). Track sales in the Pacific are up 8% in 2009, the lowest growth rate of the eight regions. On the other coast, both the Northeast and Middle Atlantic regions are up 12%. At this time last year, the early adopters of the Pacific region had brought a 25% increase in tracks sales while the Northeast and Middle Atlantic regions were up 26% and 29%, respectively.
The TEAs metric coverts digital track sales to album sales (by dividing track sales by ten) and allows for easy comparisons over periods of time. This is possible because ten digital songs have the same retail and wholesale amounts as digital albums. When looking at changes in purchase trends – as consumers buy more individual tracks and fewer albums – looking at TEAs allows for easy comparison of changes in overall recorded music spending (excluding ringtones).