Ghost of Sales Past.
Let me take you on a journey to the 1990s. This was a time of high frivolity and high music sales. In the 1990s, there were record sales as high as 208.388 million units (1996), with 76.65% of that coming from CD sales, so the music industry was booming. The introduction of the CD greatly increased record sales, as they were easier to transport (making them easier for buying), smaller, more compact and could hold more song, making them more desirable to the music buyer.
All in all, the music world was wonderful in the past. People bought physical copies of albums, bands made more albums and ALL WAS GOOD.
Ghosts of Sales Present.
Let us now travel to present day, the last five years to be precise. This is not a time of high frivolity and high music sales. In 2009, 128.946 million units were sold, a slump of around 80 million units from 1996. 2010 and 2011 show similar stories, with sales of 119.07 million units and 113.186 million units respectively. In 2012, 100.5 million units were sold. 2013 has only just begun, but sales in January were up 11.6%
The slump in album sales has come from digital sales and, more importantly, illegal downloading. In 2010, the CD market fell to 98.5 million units; digital sales went up to 21 million units. Whilst CD sales are still important, digital sales are slowly creeping up. However, they are not creeping up enough to make up the statistics, and other types of music sale (eg. LPs etc.) aren't making it up either. It's estimated that 1.2 billion tracks were downloaded illegally in 2010, and in the first half of 2012 alone, over 40 millions tracks were downloaded illegally. From these statistics, it's clear to see that the music industry has a real problem with illegal downloads.
Ghost of Sales Future
The year is 3000. Not much has changed, but we live underwater. CDs have become obsolete. Simon Cowell has incorporated all record labels into one, and only recruits one person a year, the winner of X Factor, which is now on its 8947657863th season. The only challenger to Cowell is Globalsoft, but they only wanted digitalised, computer generated music; neither option is preferable. Worst of all, Busted never got to realise their dream of a multi-platinum 7th album.
All the statistics from the ghost of sales present point to a decline in the music industry's sales of the physical CD. Soon, not many people will buy CDs, instead choosing to buy the tracks from iTunes or downloading them illegally. With so many ways to pirate, such as filesharing, YouTube conversion or simply getting your friend to send you songs, it's going to be much harder to tackle piracy than the music industry is prepared for.
Sources for statistics: