People Are Actually Buying Music Again

Reports of the music industry’s death may be premature. According to the results of a new study, not only are more people buying music, but some are doing so after hearing the tunes for free on the Internet.

According The NPD Group’s annual music study, after years of declining sales, the total number of tracks purchased — whether on CD or as digital download — rose by 4% in 2011.

The study credits some of this growth to the fact that consumers have access to a wide variety of sources to discover new music. Online services like Pandora, Rhapsody, and Spotify are not necessarily poaching customers away from purchasing music. Instead, they are fulfilling the same role as traditional radio.

And while millions of people are getting their music through download services like iTunes, the NPD study says there are still nearly twice as many CD buyers in the U.S. as there are paid digital-music downloaders.

“The CD still has a powerful attraction for both older, mainstream consumers who listen in their cars, as well as to super fans who enjoy owning the package and assortment of songs from their favorite artists,” said Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of industry analysis at NPD.

45 million people paid to download music in 2011 — a 14% increase from the year before — and they spent $49 on average.

On the illegal download front, NPD estimates that 13% of Internet users downloaded music from a P2P site, down from a the 2006 peak of 19%.

“Industry efforts to combat illegal file sharing, and increased options for listening and downloading legally, have resulted in a sharp reduction in the number of P2P music downloaders,” said Crupnick.