Nielsen SoundScan releases year-end data

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NEW YORK -- 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 1 billion units of various music configurations.

When albums are counted using a track equivalent measure of 10 digital track downloads per album, the 582 million digital track downloads last year translates into 58.2 million albums, giving overall albums a total of 646.4 million units. Then the disparity between last year and this year album sales narrows to a 1.2% drop from 2005's overall album sales of 654.1 million.

Universal Music Group remains the top distributor with 31.6% market share, down a tick from last year's 31.7%. Sony BMG Music Entertainment was down slightly from last year, finishing with a 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 the "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 last year was Carrie Underwood's "Some Hearts."

Although album sales were down, non-traditional merchants, including online stores like Amazon.com, albums sold at concerts, via television and mail-order houses grew 44.4% to 69.3 million. The rest of the account base suffered a downturn, with independents getting hit the hardest. The indies ended the year down 18.4% at 37.5 million; chains dropped 12.4% finishing at 241.7 million and mass merchants fell 3.8% at 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%.
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