October 1st marked the end of the third quarter of the year and Nielsen SoundScan has released sales figures for the year to date (not available online). Physical album sales decreased slightly from last year to 370.5 million units. That’s down 8.3 percent from the 404.2 million sold this time last year. While digital album sales are nowhere near that large, they did increase by 115 percent over last year with a total of 22.6 million sold. That’s entire album downloads. Single track downloads also increased 72 percent for a total of 418.6 million tracks downloaded.
If you figure that 10 tracks equals one album equivalent then the total number of digital album sales could be said to be 64.4 million. This means that digital downloads accounted for nearly 20 percent of music sales so far this year. I expect that will increase during the fourth quarter due to gift cards purchased during the holiday season.
Adding digital sales and physical sales together I come up with a total of 434.9 million albums sold so far in 2006. The figure for this time last year was a bit higher at 439.2 million. That’s a decrease of just over 1 percent. Probably just a minor fluctuation and nothing for the industry to worry about.
Where bluegrass album sales fit into this larger picture is unclear as I don’t have genre specific data.