Here are some statistics:
According to the NARM (National Association of Record Merchants):
In 2005 there were 21,000 albums released. The top selling album, from Mariah Carey, sold just under 5 million copies. All of the Top 5 albums sold in excess of 3 million copies. The next 5 all sold in excess of 2 million copies.
In 2009 there were 98,000 albums released. The top selling album, from L’il Wayne, sold 2.87 million copies. Only the top four albums of the year sold more than 2 million copies. An additional sobering fact is that only slightly more than 2000 of the albums released in 2009 (2.1%) sold more than 5000 copies.
According to the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America):
Between 2005 and 2008, Total US dollar sales volume dropped over 30%. In 2009 this number dropped an additional 12.3% (this annual decrease is accelerating each year since 2005). CD sales actually dropped 20.5% in 2009, but the numbers were buoyed by an increase in digital sales by 9.6%
In 1999 Jazz music sales were 3% of total music sales.
In 2005 Jazz music sales were 1.8% of total music sales.
In 2009 Jazz music sales were 1.1% of total music sales.
Jazz has always been a niche market, but now that niche seems to be getting smaller. On top of that, if you look at the Billboard Magazine top 25 jazz albums from 2009, 18 of them were by jazz vocalists (or vocalists that released albums backed by jazz musicians).
OK, so now let’s do some assumptions, based on these numbers and jazz albums. (I know, these are projections and are based on manipulating these statistics, so don’t hold me to this).
Let’s say the jazz market recovers, to be 2% of the total music market (this could happen – sales have been averaging around 1.8% for the last 4 years). And let’s say that this represents the same percentage of total albums released. That would mean that around 1,960 jazz albums were released last year (who knows what % of this number is actually re-releases, or new releases of old material?). This means that there are about 38 new jazz releases coming out every week of the year.
If only 2% of these albums become “hits” (sell over 5000 copies), this means that only about 39 jazz albums a year have a shot at really being “noticed”. And if we use last years Billboard chart as an example, only 11 of these albums will be instrumental jazz. Wow.
Now add to this mix that the jazz audience continues to get older as the years pass, and that the younger generation, even if they are interested in jazz, are not “collectors” but are “samplers” – people that are happy to stream the music off the internet or download it for free from illegal music sharing sites, but not about to spend their cash on actually BUYING the music.
So why do I still make the music, and put out albums? The odds are stacked against it ever having any financial value. Why do I continue to promote the music that I love? I guess for me it is my preferred means of expression. It fills my soul. It helps fill the souls of those that come to see the live shows, and those that listen to the music. More and more it has to be about LOVE, not COMMERCE. And maybe, that is a good thing.