Is iTunes number one?

iTunesIn late February we posted the news that iTunes had moved into the number two position in the ranking of the top music retailers in the US. The same group (NPD) has just released a new report for the first month of 2008, and reports that iTunes was the number one music retailer in the US during the month of January.

Apple was responsible for 19% of the music sold during the month of January, moving it ahead of Wal-Mart who sold 15%.

One could take these numbers in several different ways. First, the report is not based on actual sales data, but on a consumer survey. Secondly, detractors are quick to point out that Apple’s numbers are very likely skewed due to the redemption of gift cards consumers received as Christmas presents. That may be true, but I’d like to point out that the other retailers all sell gift cards as well, so that’s not a completely valid criticism of the report. However, the gift card factor could mean that iTunes might not retain the number one position once those cards have been redeemed and consumers return to normal buying habits. I do think it is a good indicator of future trends and wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple hold on to the number one rating.

While all this may not be an accurate reflection of the current bluegrass music industry, I would suggest that it is useful data to those in our genre interested in reaching new audiences. The February report, on 2007 sales, stated that 48% of US teenagers didn’t purchase any CDs during 2007. If bluegrass wants to reach a young generation, we should remind ourselves we’re in the music business, not the little plastic disc business.

NOTE: The NPD report has not been officially released as of this publication. The contents of the report were leaked and you can read about it at