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If one of the music industry's New Year's Resolutions was to sell more albums in 2011, it's perhaps fortunate that the bar is now lower than ever. For the fourth straight year, CD sales in the U.S. dropped by 20 percent, and music sales in general fell 12.8 percent compared to the already-not-good 2009 totals. That's according to Nielsen SoundScan's year-end sales roundup, which has become an almost annual buzz kill/reminder of just how bad things are in the music biz.
How bad is it? To begin with, the 326.2 million albums sold in 2010 was the lowest total since Nielsen SoundScan began keeping tabs on sales in 1991. Only 13 albums managed to attain million-selling platinum distinction, compared to the 22 platinum albums that earned it in 2009, which in itself was a paltry total compared to the glory days of compact disc megasales -- remember when 'N Sync debuted with 2.42 million sold in a single week? (The year was 2000.) Eminem's "Recovery" was the past year's top-selling album with 3.4 million copies, also not impressive, especially when matched up against the 10 million copies "The Marshall Mathers LP" sold a decade ago. Of those 13 platinum albums in 2010, only four sold over 2 million copies.
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But it gets worse: Even catalog album sales, comprised of 18-months-or-older releases that have perennially been a magnet for classic rock fans who still purchase their music legally, plummeted 15.3 percent in 2010. Billboard finds the dark silver lining in those numbers by saying that it wasn't that 2010 was poor-selling, it's just that 2009 unfairly raised expectations by being the recipient of the sales surge following Michael Jackson's death and the Beatles remasters.
The lone good news seems to come on the digital front, where single track downloads were actually up one percent compared to last year's totals. That's what we call "growth." (However, total overall music sales -- digital and physical albums, music videos, singles, everything -- were down 2.4 percent, the first time ever in the SoundScan era that the number decreased from the previous year, so ignore that growth thing.) A recent Pew study involving Internet users revealed that a third of respondents said they purchased digital music legally, but doesn't mention how the other two-thirds are getting their music, but given this year's SoundScan numbers we can assume they aren't paying for it.
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She can't sell magazines, but Taylor Swift was 2010's best-selling artist as her discography combined sold 4,470,000 copies last year. While acts like the "Glee" cast, Eminem and Gaga were no surprise to make the Top 10, both Michael Jackson (Number Eight) and the Beatles (Number 10) infiltrated this list.
• Your Top Five Music Purchasing Cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Hang your head in shame, Atlanta.
• Universal Music once again led all major labels with 30.8 percent market share of the 2010 sales. And despite all their troubles, EMI's market share was up nearly one percent from its harsh 2009.
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