Pop to the rescue of the music industry

New research published today by the Informa news service Music & Copyright reveals that global retail sales of pop music increased 2.3% last year, to US$7.5 billion. Pop ended 2011 as the world’s favorite music genre, accounting for 31.9% of global music sales. Total retail sales slipped 3.7% last year, to US$23.3 billion, so the growth of pop sales was all the more impressive.

The second biggest genre in 2011 was rock, accounting for a quarter of the world’s music sales. Sales of rock were down 5.7%, to US$5.8 million. Pop and rock have dominated music sales for years. In 2000, Pop had a global sales share of 27.8% with Rock at 22.7%.


Aside from pop, all other genres suffered a fall in sales last year. However, the bigger fall in rap, R&B and hip-hop sales allowed country to become the world’s third most popular music genre with a 6.2% share.

According to Simon Dyson, editor of Music & Copyright, “massive sales of Adele’s album 21 clearly boosted pop sales last year. The unstoppable rise in the popularity of Justin Bieber, Michael Buble and Lady Gaga also made sure pop’s bubble didn’t burst. Despite lower viewing figures for the music-based reality TV show, artists and groups created by those shows, such as One Direction, Susan Boyle and Olly Murs, just keep on selling.”

In contrast to previous years, which have seen retail sales of some of the smaller genres such as classical music and jazz fall the fastest, the reverse was the case in 2011. Sales of classical music and jazz were only marginally down last year. Smaller genres have suffered more than most in recent years from retailers giving less floor space to slow-selling, low-margin genres in favor of better-selling items, such as DVDs, video games and consumer electronics.

Note to editors
The classification of any artists’ music into a single genre is fairly arbitrary and can differ between record company, music retailer and national trade association. Categorizing music within a genre can often have multiple influencing factors such as musical technique, style, context, target audience and geographical origin. Moreover, many genres have sub-genres that can often overlap others. For the purposes of this study, Music & Copyright has limited itself to the most commonly used genre categories by most national trade associations when presenting a breakdown of sales by genre. Country music, for example, is included, because it is more popular in the world’s biggest market, the US. Despite much-lower retail sales of country music elsewhere in the world, the high level in the US resulted in a global share of 6.2% in 2011. In contrast, religious and Latin genres – such as Musica Popular Brasileira, which itself incorporate subgenres such as samba and samba-cancao – sell well in many Latin American countries. But because Latin American countries account for a much lower share of global retail sales, these genres have been grouped as part of “other.”

Music & Copyright
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Music & Copyright is published by Informa Telecoms & Media.

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