Overall music sales hit a new record in 2008, with over 1.5 billion units sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
The Nielsen Company’s annual year-end music industry report, released today, reveals that combined sales of albums, singles, music videos and digital tracks increased 10.5% over 2007, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The report covers purchases made during the 52 weeks between Dec. 31, 2007 to Dec. 28, 2008.
Digital tracks posted a 27% gain on their own to over a billion units sold in 2008, a new record. Digital albums grew 32% to 65.8 million units, also a new high.
The 2008 numbers dragged when physical product was accounted. Combined sales of albums on CD, tape, vinyl and digital download were down 14% over the year prior, from 500.5 million units to 428.4 million. When track-equivalent albums are figured in, with ten digital tracks counting as an album, the decrease comes to 8.5%.
On a brighter note, total music purchases across all product categories went over 65 million units in the last week of 2008, making it the biggest music sales week in Nielsen SoundScan history.
In terms of market share, Universal Music Group is still the leader, with 31.52% – a slight drop from 2007, when it held 31.90%; in second place was Sony BMG with 25.3%; Warner Music Group increased its market share to 21.38%; while EMI’s dropped to 8.97%. Independents collectively dropped to 12.83%.
Lil Wayne scored the top-selling album in 2008 with “Tha Carter III” (2.8 million copies), however, this year was the first time the best selling album sold less than 3 million since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991.
Other standouts included Taylor Swift, who was the top-selling solo artist across her two albums (4 million copies sold in 2008) and AC/DC, the top-selling group of 2008 (3.4 million).
On digital songs, Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love” led with 3.4 million paid downloads, while Rihanna was the top digital track seller with 9.9 million units. The top master ringtone, according to Nielsen RingScan, was Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop.”
Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body” was the top music video Internet stream, with 7.4 million video streams tracked by Nielsen BDS. The top online audio stream was Lewis’ “Bleeding Love,” with 10.7 million.
Non-traditional outlets, defined as digital, mail order, concert venues and others, upped their share of album sales from 18% to 25%. Mass merchants’ share of album sales declined once again to 37% in 2008, down from 40% in 2007, after yearly growth from 2002-2006.
All genres experienced declines in album sales, but classical fared worst in terms of percentage drop, with a 26% drop. Next came country with a 24% decrease.
Additional reporting by Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.