Sony Music Passes Universal in U.S. Market Share for the First Time Since 2005

Ed Christman/Billboard 4/28/11

Sony Music this week passed the Universal Music Group in year-to-date overall U.S. market share for the first time since 2005, the year it was the No. 1 distributor thanks to its then-just-completed merger with BMG.

As of the week ending April 24, Sony’s overall album market share, including track-equivalent albums, stands at 29.35%, which is a few ticks above Universal Music Group’s 29.26% share, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

The last time Sony was ranked No. 1, it was called Sony BMG Entertainment — and at that time, album market share alone was considered the industry’s main barometer in measuring performance. For 2005, Sony BMG’s album market share of 29.82% outpaced UMG’s 29.59%.

In 2005, while SoundScan tallied digital track market share by label and distributor, it didn’t inaugurate album market share with TEA measure until the year-ending week of 2006.

Since then, album market share with TEA has been the main barometer, but in a little-known quirk, that measure, as shown on SoundScan, also includes music DVDs and physical singles sales in the marketing report known as “share summary-overall with TEA.” Moreover, in that measure physical single sales are counted individually, and not compiled into single-equivalent albums, like 10 digital tracks are counted as one track equivalent album.

Without the inclusion of physical singles, Sony still tops UMG 29.38% to 29.32%. And even in what is traditionally thought of as album with TEA market share, which tracks just that – albums and track equivalents – Sony also retains the crown, 29.34% to 29.29%.

In looking at U.S. album market share only, Sony has a wide lead over UMG, 30.5% to 28%, while in digital tracks, the opposite is true, with UMG by far outpacing Sony, 32.4% versus 26.7% for the latter.

Ironically, the news comes two months before former UMG head Doug Morris takes the helm at Sony.

Of course, the release schedule will play into who will be the king of the hill come mid-year. Looking ahead, the Universal Music Group has Dr. Dre, Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne on the schedule; while Sony has Brad Paisley, Jackie Evancho and another “Glee” collection headed to market.



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