Track Equivalent Albums Were Established to Measure Sales

Young man and teenage girl (15-17) listening to music on laptop
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A track equivalent album (TEA) is a term used to describe the sale of music downloads or singles. A track equivalent album is equal to 10 tracks, or 10 songs. TEAs became very important with the rise of the internet, as huge portions of music are now sold as single downloads rather than whole albums.

Music Downloads

A music download is the purchase and digital transfer of a song to a player device, such as an mp3 player or smartphone.

Music downloads account for the majority of music sales in the United States. Common online music stores include iTunes, Amazon mp3, eMusic and Google Play.

When downloading music online, users can purchase individual songs instead of albums. This can be a significant cost saver. However, while consumers may not pay the full album price, the lower price of a single song can make it more affordable for users who aren't yet huge fans of a band to sample its music. They may be willing to spend $1 on a single song​ but would balk at the record's $14.99 full price. In this way, artists can actually increase their audience and income by appealing to new users.

Tracking Revenue

As the music industry has evolved from hard copy albums to downloadable music, the industry has evolved its tracking as well. The business has created new measurements to oversee profits and performance.

Because 10 track downloads are considered the equivalent of one album, the industry talks about revenue in terms of TEAs.

As of 2012, TEAs outpaced physical albums, taking over the majority of the market.

In 2013, Beyoncé's self-titled release became the fastest-growing album of all time, selling over 430,000 TEAs within 24 hours.

Notably, before Prince's death, he sold 6,400 albums and TEAs a week. After his death in 2016, that number shot up to reach nearly 400,000 albums and TEAs a week.

This is a telling example of how older music can retain its popularity through modern music downloading services.

What Are SEAs?

The industry has also evolved to consider stream equivalent albums (SEAs) to account for streaming services like Pandora. 1,500 SEAs is considered to equal one album. Streaming has been included on billboard music charts since 2014.

The Music Industry

One of the biggest problems facing the music industry is that the decline of physical album sales is happening faster than the increase in TEA and SEA sales. In 2014, the industry showed a decline of nearly 16 million units. While TEAs and SEAs are up, they are not selling fast enough to replace the income lost from physical album sale declines.

The demand for music remains high, but a change in focus has made it more challenging for the industry to reach customers and raise profits. Universal Music Group leads the industry in sales, followed by Sony Music Group and Warner Music Group.

As the music industry continues to evolve and the focus shifts toward streaming rather than track downloads, new measurements will have to be put into place to accurately forecast profits. As streaming becomes the new standard, track downloads are falling, making TEAs a less accurate measure of the industry.

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