Album sales down for July, August

Dipped 13.6% for combined two-month period

NASHVILLE -- August album sales were down 18.1% versus the same period last year and were 37.2% lower than the August 2007, according to Billboard analysis of data at Nielsen SoundScan. In the combined period of July and August, album sales were 13.6% lower than the period in 2008 and 28.7% lower than 2007.

The horrible month of August, which had the worst year-over-year deficit of the entire year, was preceded by relatively good sales in July. That five-week period, starting June 28 and ending August 1, was down only 10.3% versus the same five-week period in 2008 and 22.8% compared to 2007.

Year to date (through the week ending August 30), album sales were down 14.5% versus 2008 and 31.1% versus 2007.

Track Equivalent Albums (TEAs) are down 12.9% in August but only 6% in July. For the three-month June-August period, TEAs were down 11.3%. Year-to date, TEAs are down 9.1%. TEA is a metric that expresses both album and track sales in one measure. To calculate TEAs, tracks are converted into albums and then added to actual album sales. Using TEAs allows for comparisons of consumer spending over periods in which dollars are going to tracks instead of albums.

One reason TEAs are performing worse in recent months is weak sales of track downloads. Since February, weekly sales of tracks has dropped from the 25 million-per-week range to 21-22 million in July and 20-21 million in August. (January sales are not used for comparative purposes because of the seasonal, post-Christmas sales spike that extends through the month.) It must be noted, however, that the cause of the drop in track sales - variable pricing and $1.29 at iTunes for most hit songs - has resulted in an increase in wholesale revenue to labels. Due to the changes in wholesale prices at the most popular download stores, variable pricing makes today's TEAs less comparable to pre-variable pricing TEAs.