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A Big Music Year for Jackson, Boyle, Swift, Digital Downloads… and Vinyl

2 minute read | January 2010

2009 music purchases in the U.S. were up 2.1% over 2008 figures, marking the second year in a row that sales exceeded 1.5B units sold according to Nielsen SoundScan. The data covers a 52-week period from January 5, 2009 through January 3, 2010.

Driving the growth was a record-breaking year for digital downloads as music fans picked up 1.16 billion digital tracks  (an 8.3% jump from the prior year) and 76.4 million digital albums  (up 16.1%).

2009 Music Sales Highlights
Category 2009 Units sold 2008 Units sold %change
Total Music Sales 1,545,000,000 1,513,000,000 2.1%
Digital Track Sales 1,159,000,000 1,070,000,000 8.3%
Digital Album Sales 76,400,000 65,800,000 16.1%
LP/Vinyl Sales 2,500,000 1,880,000 33.0%
Holiday Season Album Sales 80,200,000 80,100,000 0.01%
Source: The Nielsen Company

King of pop (and the blogosphere) Michael Jackson along with pop-country star Taylor Swift were among the top-selling artists of the year. Remastered versions of The Beatles catalog secured the fab four a third place spot some 40 years after their heyday, as polar opposites Susan Boyle and Lady Gaga rounded out the top five.

2009 Top Selling Artists
RANK Name Name
1 Michael Jackson 8,286,000
2 Taylor Swift 4,643,000
3 The Beatles 3,282,000
4 Susan Boyle 3,104,000
5 Lady Gaga 2,813,000
6 Andrea Bocelli 2,668,000
7 Michael Buble 2,280,000
8 Eminem 2,166,000
9 Carrie Underwood 1,895,000
10 Black Eyed Peas 1,881,000
Source: The Nielsen Company

Wax to the Max

While gains in digital sales might signal a shift away from sales of physical music, sales of vinyl albums grew by 33%, with 2.5 million vinyl units sold. Many of the top-selling vinyl artists like The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan are household names, but just as many are lesser-known independent artists and darlings of the indie-rock blogosphere like Animal Collective, Bon Iver and Iron & Wine who round out the top 10 with critical darlings Radiohead and Wilco. Also notable is the fact that two out of every three vinyl albums were purchased at an independent music store.

2009 Top Selling Vinyl Artists
RANK Artist Name
1 Radiohead 45,700
2 The Beatles 38,800
3 Michael Jackson 30,400
4 Metallica 30,200
5 Wilco 29,600
6 Bob Dylan 24,500
7 Animal Collective 20,600
8 Pearl Jam 19,900
9 Bon Iver 17,100
10 Iron & Wine 16,600
Source: The Nielsen Company

More Music Sales Facts

  • Digital music accounts for 40% of all music purchases in 2009
  • Four digital songs broke the 4 million unit sales mark in 2009
  • Lady Gaga sold more digital tracks (more than 15 million) in 2009 than any other artist; last year’s top digital seller Rihanna sold just under 10 million tracks

Download Nielsen Soundscan’s complete music report of top albums and artists from 2009, including highlights from a decade of music sales.

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