It may be a generational thing, but it’s pretty surprising that 2011 was the first year that digital music sales surpassed physical media sales. But, it’s finally happened. Mark it down: 2011 was the year that the world is officially a digital music consumer.

A report by Nielsen and Billboard has revealed that 50.3 percent of all music sales in 2011 were digitally purchased, up 8 percent from last year. Sure, it was only a matter of time, but we’re probably not the only people on the planet that assumed that the digital music revolution toppled sales of CDs years ago.

An interesting point from Mike More, CEO of Headliner.fm, courtesy of CNNMoney:

[quote]Mike More, CEO of Headliner.fm, says the future may not be digital sales. More cites Spotify’s model as the music consumption of the future, where he says more consumers will pay for access to music streaming services rather than purchasing songs. “I think you have a whole generation who doesn’t care if they own anything,” he says. “Accessibility has become paramount. This is what consumers want — they want it everywhere and on all their devices.”[/quote]

We can’t report on this without taking a moment and recognizing the influence that Apple, Steve Jobs, and the revolutionary iPod had on completely turning the industry on its head. Napster may have started the revolution, but Apple’s iPod was the death knell for physical media. But, like More suggests, this evolution in music consumption is far from over. Streaming music through applications like Spotify, Rdio, Grooveshark, and even iCloud, potentially, could really take us into a period where the masses finally have access to history’s entire library of music for a monthly fee. That’s more valuable, in our opinion, than actually owning a physical plastic or vinyl disc, no matter what the hipsters tell you.

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