While there were certainly a number of great albums you need to have from this year, 2014 will mark the first year since its inception in 1976 that no artist’s album will be certified as platinum from sales. The award is given by the RIAA to mark one million units sold, and with only a few weeks remaining in the year, no album is even remotely close to making the threshold.
The two records nearest the magic number are Beyonce’s self-titled album and Lorde’s “Pure Heroine,” but neither have even crossed the 800,000 mark, with sales of both having tapered off months ago. There is one caveat, and that is the fact that the soundtrack to the animated film Frozen has moved well over three million units; but it being a soundtrack and not a single-artist release places it into a slightly different category.
Yet the year is not a complete wash, as 60 individual songs have been certified as platinum, and this is a clear reflection of the overall shift that the industry has made back to a singles-based focus. Thanks to digital downloads, buyers are no longer required to purchase an entire album, but when compared to last year, the number of platinum-certified singles is still down more than 20%.
The remainder of 2014 is rather bleak in terms of world-wide artists that could move massive units in a short time, as the only possible shot will come from Foo Fighters’ “Sonic Highways;” but it’s been nearly a decade since that band achieved such commercial sales success. Given that reality, it’s safe to say that in nearly every aspect, 2014 will mark the most disappointing and dismal year ever in terms of mainstream music sales.
Many will be quick to blame the rise of streaming music services, as a large number of industry executives claim that this discourages the purchase of full albums and even singles to an extent. In fact, this was what many blamed for 2014 marking the lowest album sales since SoundScan tracking began in 1991 just a few weeks ago. When these numbers were released, it was the first solid indication of how uninspiring mainstream releases have been throughout this year, as those two previously mentioned albums that are closest to platinum status were both released in 2013.
As the traditional music model changes more and more, the industry must get out of the mud and admit they have to make massive adjustments in their sales approach if they wish to survive. With the reality that songs can get millions of streams and video views, yet only sell tens of thousands of copies, the old model is no longer relevant, and when the big labels collapse, they’ll only have their arrogance and ignorance to blame.