The U.S. music industry finished the first half of 2004 with album sales of 305.7 million units, up 6.9% from the 285.9 million units scanned in the corresponding period last year, according to Nielse

The U.S. music industry finished the first half of 2004 with album sales of 305.7 million units, up 6.9% from the 285.9 million units scanned in the corresponding period last year, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

In market share, Universal Music & Video Distribution was the No. 1 ranked distributor for the first six months of 2003, with a 27.1% stake. While that is up from the 26.6% it had in the first three months of this year, it is down from the 27.7% it had in the first half of last year.

Independent labels collectively ranked No. 2, with a 17.5% share for the six-month period ended June 27. This compares with 16.8% in the same period last year.

Making a big move in market share, BMG Distribution finished at No. 3 with 16.4%, up from the 13.7% it had in the first half of 2003. On the other hand, WEA's market share dropped to 14.6% in the first half, down from the 17.6% it had in first-half 2003. Also down was Sony Music Distribution, to 12.8% from 13.4%. But EMI Music Marketing enjoyed a market share increase over its 2003 performance, finishing the first half of 2004 with 10.7%, vs. 10%.

Universal also came out as the top distribution company in terms of current-album market share, with 28.6%. It was followed by BMG, with 19.8%; the independent sector, 15.4%; Sony, 12.8%; WEA, 12.7%; and EMM, 10.7%.

Usher's "Confessions" (LaFace/Zomba) was the top-selling album in the first half, at 4.5 million units. It was followed by Norah Jones' "Feels Like Home" (Capitol), with 3.1 million, and Kenny Chesney's "When the Sun Goes Down" (BNA), with 2.1 million.