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For the First Time, Records of the Past Are Outselling New Ones

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For the first time since Nielsen Soundscan began keeping track of album sales in 1991, old records have outsold new ones, with the first six months of 2012 seeing album sales of 76.6 million “catalog" records (albums released more than 18 months ago) compared to 73.9 million current albums. Topping the catalog sales charts are Guns N' Roses' Greatest Hits and four Whitney Houston records (as a result of her untimely passing). 

So is nostalgia in higher demand than fresh material? The main reason, according to Nielsen analyst David Bakula, has been because record labels and retailers have continued to drop the price of older albums to as low as $5.99 or $7.99, which is attracting new consumers.

“I really, truly do believe that there probably is a consumer that is buying music here that wasn't buying music in the past," Bakula told the OC Weekly. He also goes on to mention that these high numbers of catalog records have resulted despite the fact that Adele's 21, which is still considered a new record, has sold one million more copies in 2012 than it did compared to 2011.

Digital sales is also an important variable to keep in mind, and while album sales in general have dropped 3.2% during the first six months of 2012 (when compared to of 2011), digital album sales have grown 13.8%. Attributing to the sales of old records, CDs and the majority of old digital albums continue to be sold for a relatively price (between $7.99 and $10.99), while newer CDs typically run consumers between a bit more (between $12.99 and $17.99).

It is also likely that many are repurchasing old records that they may have either lost or wanted to replace in digital format. And, as we saw with Whitney Houston and several others before her, the deaths of popular artists are certainly traceable to spikes in their record sales, which attributed highly to the sales of catalog records during the first six months of 2012. 


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