Year-end sales of Latin music in the United States continued to drop for the fourth consecutive year, according to numbers released by Nielsen SoundScan. For the 52 weeks ending Jan. 2, sales of Latin music, defined as albums that are at least 51% in Spanish, stood at a dismal 12,350,000 copies, a 26.8% drop from the 16,876,000 albums sold in 2009.

Meanwhile, sales of Latin digital albums also rose by 28%, from 716,000 to 917,000 copies, not nearly enough to begin to compensate the loss of physical sales.

The downturn in the Latin market, which now stands at less than a third of its height in 2006, when it sold 37,774,000 copies, has made the industry look at underlying reasons beyond loss of retail, the economic slump and the crackdown on illegal immigration. Several have pointed toward a surge in physical piracy, with illegal product making its way into many small Latin stores across the country and buyers unwittingly purchasing pirated copies.

Figures were more encouraging for digital song sales. Although total sales numbers for all Latin digital tracks were not available at press time, the top-selling Latin digital song of the year, Shakira's "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)," sold 867,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundSCan. It was followed by another Shakira track, "Loca, "which sold 255,000 copies. But several tracks by Spanish-only acts, including Aventura's "Dile al Amor" and Chino y Nacho"s "Mi NiƱa Bonita" sold well upwards of 100,000 copies, an encouraging sign.

The year's top-selling album was Enrique Iglesias' "Euphoria" (Universal Music Latino/Republic), which sold 225,000 copies (21,000 of those digital albums) and spent 11 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart. Iglesias also had the longest run at No. 1 on the Hot Latin Songs chart-17 weeks-with "Cuando Me Enamoro," featuring Juan Luis Guerra.