Nielsen: No evidence of on-demand music streams hurting download sales


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Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems released a chart Wednesday suggesting that there’s no evidence that on-demand streaming kills digital download sales.

Nielsen, which has been tracking online music streaming since 2005, released the data in conjunction with a joint effort with the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers to publish a new ‘On-Demand Songs’ chart with Billboard magazine.


The chart, above, reveals that streaming activity decreased 17% in the week after Christmas, while digital download sales jumped 20% -- presumably from people cashing in their iTunes and gift cards.

Secondly, even as on-demand streams hit all-time highs this year, digital track sales are up 7% so far compared with the same period in 2011, according to Chris Muratore, vice president of merchant services and emerging growth for Nielsen. In the week ended March 4, the number of audio and music video streams hit 625 million, up 32% from the week that ended Jan. 8.

But while streaming music marched steadily up, download sales have remained stable -- bouncing between 32.8 million and 26 million tracks.

Take the week ended Feb. 12, for example. Streaming activity ticked up 2%, while download sales surged 9.5%. In other words, the increase in streaming did not correlate with a decrease in sales.

Does this necessarily prove that streaming music services such as Spotify and Rhapsody don’t cannibalize sales, as some have feared? Not really, because correlation is not the same as causation. It’s just that there’s no smoking gun here.


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-- Alex Pham

Chart courtesy of Nielsen Broadcast Data System.