'08 music sales hit record high

Banner year for digital, with more than a billion units sold

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

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

It was the best year yet for digital sales: Tracks posted a 27% gain to more than a billion units sold in 2008, and digital albums grew 32% to 65.8 million units, both new highs.

But the 2008 numbers dragged when physical product was accounted. Combined sales of albums on CD, cassette, vinyl and digital download were down 14% over 2007, from 500.5 million units to 428.4 million. When track-equivalent albums are figured in, with 10 digital tracks counting as an album, the decrease comes to 8.5%.

On a brighter note, total music purchases across all product categories topped 65 million units in the last week of 2008, making it the biggest music 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 21.38%, and EMI, which dropped to 8.97%. Independents collectively dropped to 12.8% of the market.

Lil Wayne scored the top-selling album in 2008 with "Tha Carter III" at 2.9 million copies, but it's the lowest total for the year's top album in SoundScan history.

Other standouts included Taylor Swift, who was the top-selling solo artist across her two albums (4 million copies sold in 2008), and AC/DC, the top-selling group of 2008 (3.4 million).

Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love" led the digital tracks list with 3.4 million paid downloads, while Rihanna was the top digital track seller with 9.9 million units. The top master ringtone, according to Nielsen RingScan, was Lil Wayne's "Lollipop."
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