Music sales in the U.S. have been trending downwards, and with 2014 wrapped up, Nielsen Music crunched the final numbers to provide a snapshot of how the industry's currently doing. According to Nielsen's numbers, album and single sales dropped in 2014, but a major spike in online streaming have brought calls for optimism.
The sales numbers themselves aren't encouraging though. In 2014, total album sales fell 11.2 percent to 257 million units, and track sales dropped 12.5 percent to 1.1 billion. Overall, track sales are down 17.5 percent from the high of 1.34 billion in 2012.
Hip-hop and R&B, in particular, suffered heavy hits. No hip-hop albums ranked in the top 10 of album sales in 2014, and total hip-hop sales fell 25.1 percent—about double the declines for overall sales. Total R&B sales dropped at a similar clip, coming down by 24.1 percent.
It is important to note, however, that both hip-hop and R&B are popular streaming genres. Streamed tracks increased 54 percent last year to 164 billion songs. According to Billboard, that 57.5 billion track difference is equivalent to an increase in album sales of 56.1 million units. That number exceeds the 47.9 million unit loss that 2014 saw, leaving some to believe that the popularity of streaming services might've helped the record industry break even this year. Pandora alone contributed royalties equivalent to 16.3 million album sales.
While sales may be down, streaming is way up, which will only help the music industry transition into a digital world.