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Physical Sales of Catalog Titles Overtake New Releases in 2015

Spencer Platt, Getty Images
Spencer Platt, Getty Images

According to SoundScan sales data for 2015, consumers have turned increasingly toward older releases for physical product, with catalog sales surging past newer titles for the first time in the U.S.

The NME reports that buyers picked up 71.2 million catalog titles in 2015, edging out sales of 65.8 million new releases. In contrast, 10 years before, new releases held a 150-million unit advantage over catalog titles.

While consumers are showing an increased reluctance to invest in physical copies of new releases, catalog titles — defined as albums that are 18 months old or more — still lag behind in digital sales. Catalog sales accounted for 50.9 million units in digital formats in 2015, compared to 52.5 million for new releases.

The new data may point to a sort of stratification in music-buying, with consumers saving physical purchases for records that have proven their long-term replay value and sticking with digital for more of-the-moment impulse buys. Overall, however, they reinforce a changing paradigm that’s been seen in sales data for the last several years, during which vinyl and digital sales have helped prop up the sagging CD market.

As previously reported, vinyl sales enjoyed another impressive surge in 2015, with more than nine million LPs and EPs combining to drive a 52.1 percent gain — and bring the format back to a level it hadn’t seen since the late ’80s. Now, in fact, some analysts have increased warning calls that vinyl’s unlikely-seeming second act is a bubble that’s doomed to burst — a crash that could be hastened by the rise in vinyl mail delivery services like the soon-to-be-reborn Columbia House.

See 2015’s Biggest Rock News Stories

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