Digital vs. Physical Album Sales

Despite the increase in digital sales in the United States, physical albums still command a large percentage of an album’s sales. In fact, in many cases, physical accounts for the majority of sales.


The percentages, however, can vary greatly depending on the artist and obviously the demographic of the artist’s fan base.


For example, in analyzing the sales of the Top 15 albums for a recent week reported by Soundscan, the percentage of physical sales to digital downloads ranged from 72% physical/28% digital on the high end to 17% physical/83% digital on the low end; obviously a real difference depending on the artist, album, genre, and the type of audience the artist appeals to.


One important thing to note for songwriters is that mechanical royalties from digital sales are normally licensed at a statutory rate (i.e. 9.1¢) rather than at a lesser, controlled composition rate (e.g. 75% of statutory) which many times applies to the sale of physical albums. So the more digital sales there are of an album, the better off financially are songwriters and music publishers