Download sales up while CDs flop

5 Jan 2006

As an indicator of changes being wrought by the onset of digital music downloading, digital music sales in the US more than doubled while physical album sales dropped 7pc in 2005, according to new research from Nielsen SoundScan.

During 2005, Americans downloaded 333m songs from online retailers during 2005, up from 134m in 2004 – a 148pc increase. Conversely, little over 602m albums were sold in the US during the same period, down considerably from the 651m sold the year before. CDs account for 95pc of all music sold.

The news will be welcomed by record companies looking to expand into the online world but doubtlessly bodes poorly for physical music retailers.

The top three best selling albums of 2005 were rapper 50 Cent’s The Massacre, which had sold 4.8m copies, followed by Mariah Carey’s The Emancipation of Mimi with 4.6m albums sold and Kelly Clarkson’s album Breakaway, which sold 3.3m units.

The majority of digital downloads represented single track purchases, and while overall track downloads were up 150pc, the picture is far from rosy. A single digital track download sale amounts to one-tenth of the revenue of a physical CD sale.

By John Kennedy