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Billboard Soundscan Digital Album Sales Up 32% In 2008

4 minute read | January 2009

Artists such as Lil Wayne, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Coldplay and Flo Rida helped consumers make more decisions to buy music than ever for the fourth year in a row according to Nielsen SoundScan. While total album sales slipped 14% from 500.5 to 428.4M in 2008, sales of digital albums were up 32% from 50M to 65.8M in 2008. Sales of individual digital tracks also grew, soaring 27% over the previous year’s sales. Ironically, in the new digital age, sales of vinyl LPs were at an all-time high (1.88M).

More SoundScan data is available in Billboard’s Year In Music 2008, which features 250 Year-End charts.

Year In Music 2008 Factoids:

  • Music purchases in 2008 reached 1.5 Billion, marking the fourth consecutive year music sales have exceeded 1 billion; 1.4 billion (2007) vs. 1.2 billion (2006) vs. 1 billion (2005) .
  • Music sales exceeded 65 million in the final week of 2008, representing the biggest sales week in the history of Nielsen SoundScan. The previous record was Christmas week 2007 with 58.4 million music purchases.
  • Metallica’s “Death Magnetic” is the best selling Internet album for the year with 144,000 sales.
  • During 2008, more vinyl albums were purchased (1.88 million) than any other year in the history of Nielsen SoundScan. The previous record was in 2000, with 1.5 million LP album sales.
  • Note that more than 2 out of every 3 vinyl albums were purchased at an independent music store during the year.

Holiday Season Factoids: (last 6 weeks of year).

  • Overall album sales during the 2008 holiday season were down 19% as compared to 2007, with sales of just over 80 million.
  • Album sales during the holiday season accounted for 19% of all album sales for the year.
  • Digital album sales during the holiday season experienced significant growth over 2007 with an increase of 37% to 9.9 million sales.

Digital Factoids:

  • Digital track sales break the 1 BILLION sales mark for the first time with more than 1,070,000 digital track sales. The previous record was 844 million digital track purchases during 2007; an increase of 27% over 2007.
  • Digital album sales reached an all-time high with more than 65 million sales in 2008; up from 50 million in 2007; an increase of 32% over the previous year.
  • 2008 is the first time a digital song broke the 3 million sales mark in a single year. There were 2 songs that achieved this milestone; Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love” and Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop;” with sales of 3.4 and 3.2 million respectively.
  • In 2008, there are 19 different digital songs with sales that exceeded 2 million compared to 9 in 2007.
  • 71 Digital Songs exceeded the 1 million sales mark for the year compared to 41 digital songs in 2007, 22 in 2006, and only 2 digital songs in 2005.
  • Rihanna is the biggest selling digital artist in 2008 with nearly 10 million track sales compared to Fergie in 2007 who had 7.5 million track sales.
  • There are more than 450,000 different physical albums that sold at least one copy over the Internet during 2008 compared to 390,000 in 2007.
  • Note that digital album sales accounted for 15% of total album sales compared to 10% in 2007 and 5.5% in 2006.

Digital Records Broken In Last Reporting Week Of 2008:

  • Digital track sales surpassed 47.7 million. The previous sales record was 42.9 million, week of 12/23 -12/30/07.
  • Digital album sales this week broke the two million mark for the first time with sales of 2.4 million sales; breaking the previous record of 1.9 million (12/30/07).
  • The top 200 digital songs for the week posted an all-time high with 13.6 million sales; breaking the previous record of 11.9 million during the last week of 2007.
  • The first time that the Top 5 digital songs (combining all versions of the same song) sold more than 300,000 downloads in a week with Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” selling 419,000. The record for most downloads for a digital song in one week continues to be Flo Rida’s “Low” with sales of 467,000 set during the last week of 2007.

Best Seller Factoids:

  • Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III was the biggest selling album of the year with 2.8 million sales.
  • Taylor Swift is the biggest selling solo artist, with sales greater than 4.0 million albums and AC/DC is the biggest selling group in 2008 with sales of 3.4 million.
  • As Taylor Swift stands at the top of the list, marking the 2nd time in the last three years that a country artist is the top selling artist for the year.  Rascal Flatts was the biggest selling artist in 2006 with 5 million sales.  Josh Groban took the honors last year (2007) with 4.8 million sales.
  • Taylor Swift’s Fearless and self-titled album finished the year at #3 and #6 respectively with sales of 2.1 and 1.5 million. This is the first time in the history of Nielsen SoundScan one artist had two different albums in the Top 10 on the year end album chart

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