RIAA Studies: SACD Leads In Shipments, DVD-A In Awareness

Two recent RIAA studies show that both the SACD and DVD-A formats are making strides and face some challenges ahead. The studies involve a tally of unit shipments (net after returns) during the year 2003 from record labels in the U.S. and a monthly phone survey of U.S. consumers about their buying habits and awareness of music formats. Here’s a look what the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) found in the two high resolution audio formats.

SACD Tops DVD Audio In Unit Shipments During 2003
The first of the new RIAA studies covers unit shipments of music and the dollar value of these music discs (net after returns) during the year 2003. This study is conducted each year for the RIAA by the accounting firm of Price Waterhouse Coopers.

In the study’s review of high resolution audio disc shipments, the 2003 Unit study shows:

DVD Audio Unit Shipments

  • 2001 – 0.3 Million copies and $6.0 Million in dollar value
  • 2002 – 0.4 Million copies and $8.5 Million in dollar value
  • 2003 – 0.4 Million copies and $8.0 Million in dollar value


Super Audio CD Unit Shipments

  • 2003 – 1.3 Million copies and $26.3 Million in dollar value


Vinyl LP Unit Shipments

  • 2001 – 2.3 Million copies and $27.4 Million in dollar value
  • 2002 – 1.7 Million copies and $20.5 Million in dollar value
  • 2003 – 1.5 Million copies and $21.7 Million in dollar value


Compact Disc Unit Shipments

  • 2001 – 881.9 Million copies and $12,909.4 Million in dollar value
  • 2002 – 803.3 Million copies and $12,044.1 Million in dollar value
  • 2003 – 745.9 Million copies and $11,232.9 Million in dollar value


Some Comments on the RIAA 2003 Unit Shipment Data
Unfortunately the RIAA 2003 Unit Shipment report doesn’t provide exact numbers of copies shipped. But it does indicate that during 2003, DVD Audio experienced a 0.8% increase in shipments and a 5.3% drop in the dollar value of units during the year.

Turning to Super Audio CD, the 2003 Unit Shipment report is the first time that SACD discs were tracked so no comparison can be made with the prior year. But the RIAA report does indicate that the format out shipped DVD Audio during 2003 by a 3X factor in terms of unit copies and a slightly higher factor in terms of dollar value.

The next edition of the RIAA unit shipment report will be available at the end of August, reflecting units shipped for the first half of 2004. This should be interesting as it will provide some insight into how the SACD figures are doing compared to the first report.

For comparison purposes, I’ve also included the 2003 unit shipment data for Vinyl LPs and Compact Discs since these formats are often compared to SACD and DVD Audio.

The report indicates that both CD and Vinyl LP units shipped are declining as one would expect. While Compact Disc units shipped continue to dwarf both SACD and DVD Audio, the decline in Vinyl LP unit shipments are such that it would appear that Super Audio CD unit shipments may top Vinyl LP units during 2004 if this trend continues.

To view the news release and details of this report, visit the RIAA news release entitled “RIAA Announces 2003 Year-End Shipment Numbers” on their web site at http://www.riaa.com/news/newsletter/030404.asp and the actual copy of the figures in Adobe Acrobat format at http://www.riaa.com/news/newsletter/pdf/2003yearEnd.pdf

DVD Audio Tops SACD In RIAA Consumer Phone Survey
Next we turn to the RIAA’s 2003 Consumer Profile. This is a phone survey of over 2,900 consumers across the United States conducted for the RIAA by Peter D. Hart Research Associates. The survey asks consumers how many music discs they have purchased and in what formats do they buy their music.

In terms of types of music purchased, Rock music is the clear leader. Here’s how the consumer phone survey breaks down the top 5 types of music purchased:
1. Rock – 25.2%
2. Rap/Hip Hop – 13.3%
3. R&B/Urban – 10.6%
4. Country – 10.4%
5. Pop – 8.9%

The consumer phone survey also asks the survey participants what formats they purchased in. The 8 format choices came in as follows:
1. CDs (Full Length) – 87.8%
2. DVD Audio – 2.7%
3. Singles (All Types) – 2.4%
4. Cassettes (Full Length) – 2.2%
5. Digital Downloads – 1.3%
6. Music Videos & DVD Videos – 0.6%
7. Super Audio CD – 0.5%
8. Vinyl LPs – 0.5%

Looking at the phone survey we find that consumers classified most of their music purchases as CDs (full length) with a whopping 87.8% in that category. This suggests that consumer interest in purchasing music in CD form remains strong.

The #2 category that consumers say they purchase music on is DVD Audio at 2.7%. This bests all other formats including Singles, Cassettes, Digital Downloads, DVD Videos & Music Videos, Super Audio CDs and Vinyl LPs.

I’d say this result is a bit surprising, especially the finding that consumers say they buy more music on DVD Audio than on either DVD Video & Music Videos or Digital Downloads. It does make one wonder if the consumers in the phone survey might be confusing the DVD Audio format with music on a DVD Video disc.

As for the status of Super Audio CD, it is tied with the Vinyl LP at 0.5% which is interesting since SACDs and Vinyl LPs are also close together in the 2003 RIAA Unit Shipment survey.

To view the news release and details of this report, visit the RIAA news release entitled “RIAA Releases 2003 Consumer Profile” on their web site at http://www.riaa.com/news/newsletter/030404.asp and the actual copy of the consumer profile statistics in Adobe Acrobat format at http://www.riaa.com/news/marketingdata/pdf/2003consumerProfile.pdf

The DVD Marketing Council Press Release
I should also note that the 2003 RIAA consumer phone survey is the source of the recent DVD Marketing Council Press Announcement that was recently posted here on High Fidelity Review (see link below). It states that “DVD-Audio sales doubled in 2003 and are more than five times that of SACD, according to an RIAA survey”.

Well, the consumer phone survey shows DVD Audio in the lead. But the units shipment survey shows a 3X lead for Super Audio CD over DVD Audio when Unit Shipments and Dollar Value during 2003 are considered. It also indicates only a very slight increase in unit shipments from year to year for DVD Audio. So one does have to ask what is more important – unit shipments and dollar value or consumer impressions of formats purchased.

The press release also makes one wonder why the marketing group didn’t also note that the RIAA consumer phone survey also says that DVD Audio is outselling DVD Video and Music Video discs and Digital Downloads. I’d say those are the even more impressive survey results here – if valid.

What Does It All Mean?
Looking at the two surveys, one has to conclude that both of the high resolution audio formats – Super Audio CD and DVD Audio – have some serious marketing work ahead of them. While Super Audio CD is approaching the Vinyl LP in units shipped, it still tied for last place in the consumer phone survey.

And the data in the Units Shipped and Dollar Value survey indicates that DVD Audio has leveled out in units shipped and needs to find a way to climb to the next level. The consumer phone survey is encouraging, presumably due to their relationship to their big brother – the DVD Video disc – and could be a way to help the format build actual unit sales in the months ahead.

The coming year will tell us how both formats do. It will be an interesting story to watch.