Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks point-of-purchase sales information for recorded music, has released its year-end sales report for 2006, and there is more good news than you might expect. (If you happen to own a record company, that is.) Overall music sales (including albums, singles, videos, and digital tracks) were 1.198 billion, up 19.4 percent over 2005. Digital tracks sales, predictably, gained big, up 65 percent over 2005 to 581.9 million. Album sales, however, were down 4.9 percent, from 618.9 million to 588.2 million. At this rate, it appears likely that digital track sales will exceed album sales by a couple hundred million by the end of 2007.

With the exceptions of Christian/Gospel, Classical, Soundtrack and Latin, every genre sold less in 2006 than 2005, with R&B; (down 18.4 percent) and rap (down 20.7 percent) taking especially big hits. The best selling album was the High School Musical soundtrack (3.7 million), and the best selling artist was Rascal Flatts (nearly 5 million). If only all music was as good as High School Musical and Rascal Flatts.

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