Billboard Hot 100 Celebrates 20 Years of Nielsen Data
Billboard Hot 100 Celebrates 20 Years of Nielsen Data

Album sales continue to decline slightly because of an accelerating drop in CD sales, but digital track passed the billion-unit mark for the first time in the first nine months of 2012.

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U.S. album sales are down 4.4% to 218.4 million units for the first nine months of the year, fueled by CD sales dropping to 129.7 million units from 151.6 million units in the corresponding period last year, according to Nielsen SoundScan. While digital album sales are up 15.3% to 85.5 million units, the 11.3 million-unit gain from last year's tally at the nine month point is only about half of the 21.9 million unit decline in CDs. Like digital, vinyl is also up dramatically -- a 16.3% increase to 3.2 million units from 2.7 million units. But it's still only about 1.5% of total U.S. album sales.

After nine months, Adele remains the leader in album sales with four million unit scans for her album, "21," to bring total sales of the title to 9.85 million units since its release in February 2011.

Digital track sales closed out the nine-month mark with 1.009 billion units. That represented a 6% increase over the 951.7 million units scanned in the first nine months of 2011.

One Direction's "Up All Night" has surpassed Lionel Richie's "Tuskegee" to move into second place for the year so far with 1.25 million units, versus the latter's 1.02 million units.

In digital songs, Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know' (featuring Kimbra) is the top selling song with scans of nearly 6.5 million units. Two other titles are over the five million-unit milestone: Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe," with scans of 5.8 million units, and Fun's "We Are Young" (featuring Janelle Monae), which has scans of 5.6 million units.

The Universal Music Group (UMG) remains the top U.S. album distributor with a market share of 29.83% in albums plus track equivalent ones, just beating out Sony Music Entertainment by one percentage point. Sony Music posted 28.84% for the first nine-months of the year in that album count.

If only albums are considered, Sony is the top distributor with 32%, versus UMG's 26%. The latter's 31.2% track share, a six percentage point lead over Sony's, is how the company retains its lead in album plus TEA.

Catalog albums continue to drive the U.S. business. The category enjoyed a 3.7% gain to 110.5 million units from 106.6 million units in 2011's corresponding period. Meanwhile, current album sales drop 11.5% to 107.8 million units from 121.9 million units.

While catalog continues to hold a larger portion of album sales than current for the first time in SoundScan history, its lead softened somewhat in the third quarter -- at midyear catalog was up nearly two percentage points higher at 5.4% for the first six months of this year versus last year.

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