U.S. 2011 album sales up for first time since 2004

Wed Jan 4, 2012 7:47pm EST
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(Reuters) - U.S. album sales rose in 2011 for the first time since 2004, partly reflecting cheaper album prices and special offers as well as a booming vinyl market, music industry analysts said on Wednesday.

Album sales grew by 1.4 percent to 330.6 million units in 2011 according to figures published in Billboard magazine, up from 326.2 million in 2010.

The small increase in the world's biggest music market will be welcome news to the industry after years of declining revenues.

"This can partially be due to aggressive pricing of albums in the marketplace, which are being priced a lot more economical for consumers, addressing their concerns that $10 for an album may be too expensive," Keith Caulfield, associate director of charts at Billboard.com told Reuters.

U.S. physical CD sales fell six percent last year, but the 20 percent increase in digital album downloads to a record 103.1 million more than made up for the losses, according to figures from Nielsen SoundScan.

Digital song sales grew 8.5 percent in 2011 to a record 1.27 billion downloads, compared with 1.17 billion in 2010.

Vinyl album sales soared to 3.9 million copies, versus 2.8 million in 2010. Caulfield called the growth in vinyl albums "crazy," attributing it to an "untapped market."

"It's reaching two kinds of consumers -- the older consumers who remember vinyls fondly and may even have turntables, and the younger consumers who can have a physical copy in hand and have that artwork to look at," he said.