Best of 2008: It Ain't the Sales Data

virgin_megastore.jpgViva la vida, or death and all his music-retailer friends (shown here in happier times).

Nielsen SoundScan has released its year-end report, and the numbers aren't pretty, with album sales off by another 15 percent and no single album cracking the 3 million sales mark - the first time that's happened since SoundScan began tracking sales data in 1991.

There were, of course, gains in the sales of digital tracks (up 27 percent) and digital albums (up 32 percent), but they weren't nearly enough to offset the declines in CD sales, which fell by 88.5 million units. To put that number in perspective, total digital album sales in 2008 reached 65.8 million units.

As such, net revenue was down again in '08 - though you can probably say that about pretty much every industry. (Then again, not every industry is vexed by the sort of pricing problem that the music biz can't seem to figure out. And it won't get any easier in 2009, with retail options continuing to disappear.)

Every genre showed shrinkage in 1008, from R&B (-19.4percent) and rap (-19.8) to Latin, classical and country, all of which suffered sales decreases greater than 20 percent. But country had at least one very bright spot: The crossover Nashville star and Post Rock fave Taylor Swift became the first SoundScan-era artist to place two albums on the year-end Top 10 sales chart, as "Fearless" ranked third and her 2006 self-titled debut was sixth.

Here's the list of the year's Top 10 best-sellers, with TWP's reviews. You know, in case you're one of those apparently anachronistic types who still buys albums.

1. "Tha Carter III," Lil Wayne - 2,874,000 copies sold
2. "Viva La Vida," Coldplay - 2,144,000
3. "Fearless," Taylor Swift - 2,112,000
4. "Rock N Roll Jesus," Kid Rock - 2,018,000
5. "Black Ice," AC/DC - 1,915,000
6. "Taylor Swift," Taylor Swift 1,597,000 (not reviewed)
7. "Death Magnetic," Metallica - 1,565,000
8. "Paper Trail," T.I. - 1,522,000
9. "Sleep Through the Static," Jack Johnson - 1,492,000
10. "I Am...Sasha Fierce," Beyonce - 1,459,000

By J. Freedom du Lac |  January 5, 2009; 9:19 AM ET Music Business , Year-End Lists
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