Running the numbers

Nielsen SoundScan has put out its annual results, and while most blog attention has been focused on the rise of downloads at the expense of actual CD sales, I’m looking at genre totals (figures presumably in thousands), which came out like this:

Alternative: 109,672, down 9.2%
Christian/Gospel: 39,715, up 1.3%
Classical: 19,447, up 22.5%
Country: 74,886, down 0.5%
Jazz: 15,720, down 8.3%
Latin: 37,774, up 5.2%
Metal: 61,557, down 4.5%
New Age: 3,412, down 22.7%
R&B: 117,005, down 18.4%
Rap: 59,534, down 20.7%
Rock: 170,726 (a)
Soundtrack: 27,177, up 18.9%
(Note: Titles may appear in more than one genre.)
(a) Rock was a new genre in 2006.

Oh, was it, now?

The big news here, if you ask me, is that classical was up a fifth, and rap was down a fifth. I raise a fifth (one drink at a time, you may be sure) in celebration of these numbers.

And here’s something else heartening (figures in millions this time):

Current: 363.9, down 6.5%
Catalog: 224.2, down 2.3%
Deep Catalog: 158.2, up 0.4%

Current becomes “catalog” at 18 months: catalog becomes “deep” after 18 more (36 total). These numbers suggest a growing belief among the buying public that the newer it is, the more likely it sucks. Radio, of course, demonstrates this every day.

And Johnny Cash outsold everyone but Rascal Flatts this year, which surely proves something.


  1. david »

    7 January 2007 · 2:18 pm

    It baffles me that a category with the 3rd-highest number of sales can be termed “alternative.”

  2. triticale »

    7 January 2007 · 7:22 pm

    It similarly baffles me that Rock was a new genre in 2006.

  3. McGehee »

    8 January 2007 · 7:51 am

    Which may be why when I hear one of those “rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay” songs from the ’50s or ’60s, I am reminded of similar pretensions of eternity, such as the Thousand-Year Reich and The Permanent Majority.

  4. Brian Mulholland »

    27 January 2007 · 3:14 pm

    I have to agree with David here. “Alternative” would imply the opposite of “commercial,” and yet it’s third (3rd)? And if Nielsen considers it a separate genre, how can it not be a part of “rock” (as they must think it’s grunge…or something)? What is it then?

  5. CGHill »

    27 January 2007 · 3:54 pm

    If nothing else, this little exercise teaches us — or should teach us, anyway — the futility of pigeonholing. (Unless, of course, you are in fact a pigeon, in which case I apologize for the stereotype.)

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