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Album Sales Down 12.5% in 2009, Digital’s Steady Growth Not Enough to Bridge the Gap… Singles Have a Very Good Year…

The Wall Street Journal:

U.S. album sales in 2009 declined for the eighth time in nine years, according to Nielsen SoundScan, while online song downloads grew too slowly to close the gap.

The data, released Wednesday, indicate that the recorded-music industry is still struggling to adapt to the digital age, even as SoundScan said digital downloads now account for 40% of music purchases.

Variety sums up the less-than-stellar but still not-apocalyptic figures:

The music biz may be undergoing drastic shifts, but music still sells. Though sales of physical albums continued to wither in 2009, the number of overall music purchases rose 2.1% last year, according to year-end figures from Nielsen SoundScan.

Between Jan. 5, 2009, and Jan. 3, 2010, total album sales (encompassing CDs, cassettes, LPs and digital albums) plummeted 12.7%, with almost 374 million units sold (down from 428.4 million in 2008). Overall album sales (including all albums and “track equivalent” digital albums) fell 8.5%, with nearly 490 million units sold vs. 535.4 million the previous year. Internet sales of physical albums plunged 8% during the same period.
Nonetheless, the digital realm, which accounted for 40% of total U.S. music purchases, experienced a continuing upswing: Digital album sales gained 16.1%, while digital track sales climbed 8.3%. A staggering 1.1 billion digital tracks were sold last year.

Though its sales levels were humble, the old-fashioned vinyl LP witnessed the biggest percentage sales gain last year, climbing 33% with 2.5 million sold. Two out of three vinyl albums sold were purchased at independent retailers.

Across the pond, the Belfast Telegraph reports that album sales were down 3.5%, 8.5% less than in the US:

Album sales in the UK fell by 3.5% in 2009, despite a growth in digital sales, figures have showed.

The Official Charts Company data showed that combined albums market sales of 128.9 million – including physical CDs and digital downloads – declined by 3.5% during 2009.

Digital albums now account for 12.5% of the albums market.

While UK Singles reached an all-time high:

The growth of downloads helped the UK singles market enjoy its best year ever in 2009. According to figures released by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), 152.7m singles were sold last year, 98% of which comprised tracks that were downloaded