2015 may have been a good year for the music industry, but it wasn't a great year for music released in 2015. For the first time since Nielsen began tracking music sales in the US, catalog albums (an industry term for anything released over 18 months ago) outsold new releases.
There are a number of factors that add up to catalog albums taking the sales crown. Music streaming was up 92 percent from 2014 and physical album sales for new releases dropped 14 percent, while catalog album sales only decreased by 2 percent.
Add in the revival of vinyl records to that — 12 million units were sold in the format, with records from Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and Miles Davis making up three of the five best-selling vinyl albums — and catalog albums had the juice to top new releases, despite Adele selling 7.4 million units of 25 in 2015. (And if you're thinking older people are carrying the vinyl revolution, think again; Taylor Swift's 1989 was the second biggest vinyl album of 2015.)
Catalog music is also dominating music streaming as well, with new releases only making up 30 percent of audio and video streaming volume. 2015 may have just been a bad year for new music from the biggest stars, with no albums from Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Kanye West, and Frank Ocean (Frank, where are you????) or everyone could have just been playing 21 on repeat waiting for Adele to finally release her new record. Either way, America wasn't really in love with what 2015 had to offer.
New albums still have a slight lead when it comes to digital sales, and if the numbers hold steady throughout 2016, it can maintain that lead. But it's clear the immediate future of music consumption may be led by catalog releases as more and more people embrace streaming as a viable music source and vinyl sales continue to grow.