Vanessa Thomas SVP, Sales, Nielsen Music, North America

Vanessa Thomas SVP, Sales, Nielsen Music, North America
Vanessa Thomas has worked in the music industry for 20 years, including time with Premiere radio networks in LA as VP of Marketing and five years as radio morning show personality Jo Thomas in San Francisco. After three years at GAVIN magazine in SF, she returned to Toronto in 2002 as Managing Director of Nielsen Entertainment Canada and is now currently SVP, Sales, Nielsen Music North America.

What is SoundScan?
We track all the point of sale purchases scanned from the barcodes. We capture all the sales of music in Canada both digitally and physically. Then we compile it into charts by region, genre, format and label and then you can sort it in a variety of different ways.

Who reports this data?
Monday to Sunday sales are captured from all the retailers like HMV, all the mass merchants like Costco and Walmart, all the internet, the independent sites plus iTunes, Napster, Puretracks. We're getting from Quebec shortly. They upload their sales file to an FTP site. We download it, sort it and put it together.

Who uses the data?
We work with all the major labels. We've got a lot of the independent labels, a lot of government agencies and PROs and so on. Record labels use it to track the sales of their artists and tweak their marketing campaigns, to see where they might need to do a bigger promotional push. Our data gets used to measure the strength of new artists, for royalties, to get funding from FACTOR or Radio Starmaker Fund.

If you're an unsigned artist, is there any way to access the data?
Yes, there are various packages at different price points. You can have full access or partial access or you can just have title reports emailed to you on a weekly basis. You can choose just to see only your titles, or to see charts. You can buy a one-off report.

Is there a way to report off-stage sales?
We have a Venue Sales Program that we created for indie artists so that we could capture their offstage sales. A typical eligible venue is an appearance at a registered venue site ― a concert hall, a club or in-store. You can join for a year and then submit as many reports as you want. It has to be signed off by the band and by the venue. We have strict deadlines about when it has to be submitted to make the next Wednesday's chart.

What trends can you identify based on last year's data?
Sales-wise I think we've bottomed out. In 2008 sales were at 40 million and in 2009 they were 41 million. Growth on digital is not as fast as the U.S., but in Canada we are buying more albums, which is good for Canada's musical economy. Vinyl shows monstrous growth, although the numbers are still small. It was up 83.5 percent in the last year! But that's still only 70,000 copies.