'08 music sales hit record high — really

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Overall music sales set a record in 2008 with more than 1.5 billion units sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Nielsen's annual year-end music industry report shows that combined sales of albums, singles, music videos and digital tracks increased 10.5% compared with 2007. The report covers purchases made during the 52 weeks between Dec. 31, 2007, and Dec. 28.

It was the best year to date for digital sales: Tracks posted a 27% gain to more than 1 billion units sold for the year, and digital albums grew 32% to 65.8 million units, both new highs.

But 2008 dragged when accounting for physical product. Combined sales of albums on CD, cassette, vinyl and digital download were down 14% compared with 2007, from 500.5 million units to 428.4 million.

On a brighter note, total music purchases across all categories topped 65 million units during the last week of 2008, making it the biggest sales week since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991.

In terms of market share, Universal Music Group remained the leader with 31.5%, a slight drop from 2007, when it held 31.9%. Sony BMG was in second place with 25.3%, followed by Warner Music Group, which increased its market share to 21.4%.

Lil Wayne scored the top-selling album in 2008 with "Tha Carter III" at 2.9 million copies, the lowest total for a top disc in SoundScan history.

Ayala Ben-Yehuda is a correspondent for Billboard.
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