Release and sale of sound recordings have fallen rapidly in recent years. The number of sound recording releases in a physical format (CDs, phonograms and MCs) has halved since it reached its all-time high in the mid-2000s. The decline in the number of sold units and sale value at distributor level has even been more severe. From the turn of the century, the number of sold copies plummeted about 87 per cent and sale value dropped about 80 per cent, measured in fixed prices. Downloads and streaming of music has not yet proven to be the saviour of the music industry so much hoped for by distributors, albeit its ever increasing importance.

Throughout the 1980s some 70 titles were released per annum on average. Following the introduction of the CD, the number of releases increased near continuously in the 1990s until 2006, when 299 titles were released. Since then, the number of released titles has declined year by year. In the years 2014 and 2015, releases numbered 142 and 138, respectively, or similar number as were released per annum in the early-1990s (see figure 1).

In the year 2016, 112,000 units of CDs and vinyl records were sold at distributor level compared with 868,000 units in 1999 when the sale was at its peak. Since 2005, the amount of units sold has declined from 823,000 (see figure 2). The decline is further highlighted considering that sold units per capita dropped from 3.1 in 1999 to 0.3 in the last year.


Sale value at distributor level of CDs, vinyl records and digital files in 2016 was 455 ISK million or less than one third of the sale value in 1999, calculated in 2016 prices. In the year 2016, the sale value increased, albeit slightly, from the previous year. This has undoubtedly much to do with increased sale of music streaming, which has become more and more important in the revenue stream for distributors. From 2010, when information on revenue from streaming and downloading of music was first available, the share of digital files’ sale has risen from six per cent of the total sale up to 60 per cent in 2016. However, the increased revenue weight from streaming and downloading has not compensated for the decline in revenue for distributors due to the fall in sale of music in physical format (see figure 3).


Figures on the number of releases are derived from the Icelandic National Bibliography which is compiled by the National Library and University Library of Iceland ( The inventory is based on information provided from producers and distributors. The database is dynamic in the sense that a revised edition appears regularly, which means that figures, especially from in more recent years, will change with new incoming information. Figures presented here date from 4th October 2017. Releases on CDs, vinyl records and MCs are listed in the database. Information about release of digital files of music is not available.

Information about sale of sound recordings are derived from the annual audit surveys of the Federation of the Phonogram Industry, the Icelandic Group of IFPI. Included in the last year survey are all main producers and distributors of sound recordings in the country and two distributors of digital music files, and Spotify.