Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III was the best-selling album of last year, a year in which total album sales fell 14 percent as consumers continued to buy single songs online, such as top-seller Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis.
Total US music purchases rose 11 percent last year to 1.51 billion units, driven by online spending. Album sales fell to 428.4 million from 500.5 million a year earlier, researcher Nielsen SoundScan said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.
Online sales of individual tracks from stores such as Apple Inc’s iTunes topped 1 billion for the first time, rising 27 percent, Nielsen said. Music companies such as Warner Music Group Corp count on digital revenue from downloads and ring tones to counter Internet piracy and shrinking demand for CDs.
“We’re moving towards the inevitable digital environment,” Ted Cohen, a Los Angeles-based media and entertainment consultant with TAG Strategic LLC, said in an interview. “Whether it’s on a cellphone or a computer, people now want instant access to music.”
Nielsen tracks unit purchases, not dollar sales of music. With spending going more online and consumers cutting their purchases of compact discs, industry revenue has declined.
Warner Music last month reported fiscal 2008 sales fell 2 percent after adjusting for currency changes.
Digital album sales rose 32 percent to 65.8 million, slower than the 53 percent rise in 2007 and not enough to counter the drop in CD sales. Over the past two years, album sales have declined 27 percent.