US digital track sales were down 1% in the first quarter, but a lack of hits wasn’t the problem. Current tracks were up 3% and the top 10 tracks were also up 3% while catalog tracks were down 4% through March 31st, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Catalog track sales have been on a downslide for the last four years, falling to 193.5 million in the first 13 weeks of 2013 from 210 million in the first 13 weeks of 2009. First quarter track sales were very close to the 194.8 million sold through the first 13 weeks of 2010. Track sales were slow that year until October — the time LimeWire was shut down — and ended 2010 up 1% after a strong fourth quarter.
Current track sales have risen in four of the last five first quarters. Current track sales were just 118.5 million in the first 13 weeks of 2009 and have risen nearly 38% to 163 million in the same period this year. The only period of decline came during the slow year of 2010.
The hits are doing just fine. The top 10, the biggest hits of the year, has fared well. The top 10 tracks were up 3.1% over the previous period’s top 10 tracks while top 40 was up just 0.1% over the top 40 of last year’s first quarter. Led by 3.15 million tracks sold of “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, the top 10 tracks of 2013’s first quarter sold 8.45 million units compared to 8.24 million units a year earlier. The top 100 tracks were up 3.5%.