According to Billboard, in 2008, fully 106,000 albums — collections of sound recordings with a UPC (“bar code”) number — became available. This number went down 10 percent the year after that, and about 25 percent last year, but 2010 still put 75,000 recordings into circulation. (Figures for 2012 aren’t quite out yet). Estimate an average of 11 songs an album, it comes to about 825,000 songs. That’s a lot of music.
Of course, 60,000 of those albums accounted for less than 1 percent of the number of records sold, and those 60,000 sold between one and 100 copies (averaging about 13.5). Since this all data comes from Sound Scan, though, it should be taken with a grain of salt. The company doesn’t count many of the sound recordings sold at shows, for instance, unless the artist makes an effort to get them the news and numbers. And why would they? The transactions are mostly cash, and that often turns into an instant per diem — it’s what they eat and live on while on the road. It’s hard for the IRS to track cash, and at this volume, they don’t put too much effort into it.
But how many of those 60,000 sound recordings could have become your next favorite? Given access to one of these albums that matched your tastes, you might find an artist who could be a star, at least in your world.
Even in the days when 20,000 albums came out, only 0.5 percent made any sales impact. And
even when radio had a little adventure in its soul (or even had a little soul!), stations only played the most heavily promoted music. That great “little” band often flew under the radar.
These days a lot of music flies under the radar. So, how do we excavate the treasure out of what we perceive as dross? It’s overwhelming. The issue here is gatekeeping. It’s the only way to deal with the sheer amount of information that’s out there.