Lil Wayne's 'Tha Carter III' top seller of 2008

8:25 AM PST 12/31/2008 by Jonathan Cohen, Billboard, AP

Coldplay comes in at a distant second; Taylor Swift is third

NEW YORK -- Rapper Lil Wayne's "Tha Carter III" (Cash Money/Universal) is far and away the top seller of 2008, netting 2.88 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. However, it's the first time the best-selling album of the year has sold fewer than 3 million copies since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991.

Coldplay is a distant second with "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends" (Capitol) at 2.15 million, followed by Taylor Swift's just-released "Fearless" (Big Machine with 2.11 million. Swift's self-titled 2006 debut is No. 6 on the year-end chart with 1.6 million.

Kid Rock crowns the year-end chart at No. 4 with "Rock N Roll Jesus," which sold more than 2 million. The Atlantic release was not available on iTunes, fueling sales of the full album.

AC/DC's Wal-Mart exclusive release, "Black Ice" (Columbia), sold 1.92 million copies to rank No. 5 for the year. It was also held back from digital retailers. Metallica's "Death Magnetic" (Warner Bros.) came in at No. 7 with 1.57 million, followed by T.I.'s "Paper Trail" (Grand Hustle/Atlantic) at No. 8 with 1.52 million.

Jack Johnson's "Sleep Through the Static" (Brushfire/Universal) is No. 9 with 1.5 million, while Beyonce's new "I Am ... Sasha Fierce" (Music World/Columbia) rounds out the top 10 with 1.46 million.

In 2008, there were 428.4 million albums sold, down 14.4% compared to 2007's 500.5 million. Digital downloads of albums accounted for 65.79 million albums this year, or 15.4% of the overall album market. In 2007, digital albums sold 50.01 million and represented 10% of the album market.

Conversely, physical CD albums made up 360.6 million albums this year (84% of the market), compared to 449.18 million last year (90% of overall album sales).

This year also saw a record number of vinyl albums sold, with 1.8 million -- more than any other year since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991. It's the first time the industry has sold 1 million vinyl albums in a calendar year since 2004, when 1.2 million were sold. The top selling vinyl set of 2008 was Radiohead's "In Rainbows," with 26,000.

Meanwhile, digital track sales continue to blow up, as 2008 was the first year to see over 1 billion tracks sold. All told, 1.07 billion were sold, up 26.7% compared to 2007's 844 million. The top selling track of the year is Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love," with 3.37 million.

Keith Caulfield in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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