U.S. album sales in March 2009 were 17.9% lower than the same period in 2008 and 29.8% lower than the same week in 2007, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Sales in March were much slower than the previous two months. January's year-over-year decline was only 12% while February's loss was 11.5%. The 6.6 million weekly average for the four weeks of the March 2009 period was lower than the 6.7 million weekly average in January (five weeks) and the 7.6 million weekly average in February (four weeks). February sales were higher than the months preceding and following in part because the annual Grammy Awards typically fall in February.

As reported yesterday, first quarter album sales were down 13.5% and CD sales dropped 20.3% year-over-year. At 19.3 million units, digital album sales were up 23%.

In the first quarter, U.S. consumers purchased 90.4 million albums and about 330 million tracks. With a conversion factor of ten tracks to one album, the mythical track equivalent albums (TEA) figure dropped 7% to 123.4 million. Because consumers are substituting albums for tracks, and because albums are not the only revenue source for labels, TEA sales are more reflective of overall spending trends than are album sales. Of course, an even better metric would include ringtone sales.

The first quarter of 2009 had a decent - but not fantastic - release schedule. So few high-caliber releases were released, and so few with staying power, that Taylor Swift's "Fearless," released in the middle of November, 2008, has topped the album chart seven times in 2009. New releases by Bruce Springsteen, U2, Kelly Clarkson and the Fray have debuted at No. 1, but only Clarkson was able to hold that spot for more than one week.