Digital boosts music sales

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While overall album sales dipped 5% to 588.1 million units in 2006, the combined total with digital tracks reached nearly 1.2 billion units, a 20.8% increase from last year's 976.6 million units of album and digital track sales.

Universal Music Group remains the top distributor with a 31.6% market share, down a tick from 31.7% in 2005. Sony BMG Music Entertainment also was down slightly from the previous year, finishing at 27.4%. Rounding out the majors, the Warner Music Group placed third with 18.1%, and EMI Music finished with 10.2%. The independents, excluding the indie distributors owned by the majors, garnered 12.6%.

The best-selling title of the year was Walt Disney Records' "High School Musical" soundtrack, which moved 3.7 million units, while the top-selling artist was Rascal Flatts, which sold 3.5 million units of "Me and My Gang." The only other album to break the 3 million-unit mark in 2006 was Carrie Underwood's "Some Hearts."

Although album sales were down, nontraditional merchants — including online stores like Amazon, albums sold at concerts or via television and mail-order houses — grew 44.4% to 69.3 million units. The rest of the account base suffered a downturn, with independents getting hit the hardest, down 18.4% at 37.5 million units. Chains dropped 12.4% to finish at 241.7 million, and mass merchants fell 3.8% to 239.9 million.

Deep catalog was the only category in album sales to show a sales gain last year, finishing up 0.4%. That category is a subset of catalog, which was down 2.3% last year, while current sales were down 6.5%.

Ed Christman is a senior correspondent for Billboard.
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