Surprise of the Day: People Still Buying (Some) Music

Published on February 4, 2010
by Peter Kafka

The music industry’s decline has been so prolonged that this now qualifies as a man-bites-dog story: Sony says its music sales actually went up, just a bit, in the last quarter.

The conglomerate’s music division doesn’t represent much more than a footnote in its overall financial picture, but in the last quarter, it was at least a positive footnote. Sales were up two percent–seven percent if you cancel out currency fluctuations–and operating profit was up 8.2 percent.

Hard to argue that this uptick will be sustainable, though. Sony (SNE) says the boost came from a couple individual success stories that will be hard to repeat, for obvious reasons: People bought lots of copies of the soundtrack to “This Is It,” the Michael Jackson concert movie, as well as the debut album from cultural oddity/viral video favorite Susan Boyle.

Looking for more traditional music business news? I can oblige: Music industry types tell me they’re freaked out that physical sales could take another steep tumble this year if retailers like Wal-Mart (WMT) and Best Buy (BBY) shrink the tiny amount of floorspace they devote to CDs yet again. And they’re also worried that digital sales are finally flattening out.

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