Digital is not outselling CDs

How a BPI press release included non-sales figures to get a headline, and succeeded

This week the BPI made a big noise about digital beating CD for the first time but this “significant milestone” included streaming royalties (such as Spotify subscriptions and advertising). Of course, the media—who should give the story behind the headlines—failed to explain what this press release actually means.

Although this Guardian story describes where the numbers come from they don’t say why income from music online is rolled up with “digital” but income from traditional broadcasters such as the BBC is apparently excluded. And this Guardian discussion  ignores the fact these numbers don’t reflect sales: “It’s good news that digital music sales are outstripping CD sales for the first time.

They aren’t.

CD sales figures don’t include sync, master licenses, PPL or PRS/MCPS royalties. So, when might the tipping point actually occur? Not for a few years yet.

Billboard story this week (“UK’s PRS For Music Says Digital Royalties To Match Physical By 2014“) tells us non-sales income from music is still heavily biased away from digital. Assuming this pattern applies across other categories such as PPL that suggests the BPI are suffering from premature proclamation.

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