Only Two Platinum Records This Year?!

Why record sales have frozen solid

Nicole Carlson

Nicole Carlson

So far this year, only one album from a single artist has sold a million copies. That’s right. No album has gone platinum in 2014, except for the soundtrack to “Frozen” and Taylor Swift’s “1989.” In fact, her album went platinum in its first week, beating out every other album made this year. While that may at first come across as horrifically depressing, there are some possible explanations for this phenomenon that could either serve as comforting or additionally bleak.

Perhaps the lack of record buying in 2014 is just a fluke, but with ridiculously easy ways of obtaining music such as Spotify, Pandora, and torrenting, is the age of purchasing entire albums reaching its demise? It certainly seems so when looking at Top 40 lists. They indicate that music purchasers tend to buy one or two songs off an album rather than full-lengths, adding to their library of individual songs from various artists. Obviously, the attitude of purchasing songs singularly was not possible when music was solely sold on vinyl and cassette tapes, but modern technology allows this trend to be increasingly popular.

Music streamers are placing a plate of cookies next to a plate of broccoli on America’s dining table; our musical diet is changing.

Why don’t we just buy albums? We used to do it all the time, so what’s the big holdup now? Well, the music business today is not what it used to be. Companies that stream music make money by selling the convenience of their owned music. Why would one exit out of Spotify in order to pay for the album they were just listening to for free, or even go so far as to bike to a record store and buy the physical copy of it? While there are people that are passionate and supportive enough of artists to do this, this may not be in everyone’s best interest. Music streamers are placing a plate of cookies next to a plate of broccoli on America’s dining table; our musical diet is changing.

On the optimistic side of things, we certainly saw albums hit the one million mark last year. Daft Punk, Vampire Weekend, and Kanye West did very well, and it should be noted that some years for music are better than others. All we can do as listeners is make the best out of what we have, and hope that our record and ticket purchases may change things. Moreover, with emerging genres and young artists, the ability to produce desirable music is still alive. Every day, there are more creative artists born, and though it may seem like we’re digging ourselves a musical grave, it should only serve as further inspiration for artists to turn the situation on its head and make something truly stunning out of it.