Album sales slide 16.6% in first quarter

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NEW YORK -- Album sales in the first quarter tumbled 16.6% to 117.1 million units, according to Nielsen SoundScan, with the drop blamed on a weak release schedule, the consumer's loss of confidence in the CD and a reduction in store space for the format.

While CD sales plunged 20.5%, digital track sales totaled 281.7 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan. When those digital track sales are factored as a track equivalency to albums, album sales are off 10.3%.

Norah Jones' "Not Too Late," with nearly 1.2 million scans, was the only album to top the 1 million unit mark in the Jan. 1-April 2 period. Two digital tracks topped that milestone: Fall Out Boy's "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arm's Race" and Gwen Stefani's "Sweet Escape." The top-selling digitally downloaded album this year is Daughtry's self-titled album, which has scanned more than 98,000 units.

In the market-share race, Universal Music Group held steady in the top spot, racking up a 30.6% slice of the pie, followed by Sony BMG Music Entertainment Sales (25.7%), Warner Music Group (19%), the independent sector (collectively at 13.1%) and EMI Music (11.6%).

UMG also was king in current album market share, garnering a 32% share. The other distributors finished in the same order, with Sony BMG Music Entertainment at 26.3%, WMG at 17.7%, the indies at 12.1% and EMI at 12%.
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