Lil Wayne Biggest Seller of 08

Nielsen SoundScan has just released its annual report on U.S. music sales, with New Orleans rapper Lil Wayne and country-pop singer Taylor Swift finishing atop a shrinking heap.

The Nielsen Company, which uses SoundScan and other technologies to track sales of prerecorded music over the counter and online, actually reports an increase in overall music sales, meaning all albums, singles, music videos and digital tracks — physically packaged and downloaded. U.S. music consumers bought 1.5 billion such “units” in 2008, a 10.5 percent increase over the 1.39 billion units they bought in 2007.

But that numerical jump doesn’t mean the music industry had a better year. Sales of full-length albums — in CD, LP or digital form — still make up the largest share of the industry’s income, and Nielsen reports overall album sales were down 8.5 percent in 2008 from 2007.

Album sales by genre were down in every one of the twelve categories counted by Nielsen, from alternative to Christian/gospel to country to rap to soundtracks. So the slide in prerecorded music sales that began in earnest with this decade continued in 2008 as the U.S. economy worsened.

Here are SoundScan’s top 10 CDs of the year. Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III leads, while Taylor Swift moves the most product owing to a strong showing for both of her CDs.

Lil Wayne: Tha Carter III, 2.9 million
Coldplay: Viva La Vida, 2.1 million
Taylor Swift: Fearless, 2.1 million
Kid Rock: Rock N Roll Jesus, 2 million
AC/DC: Black Ice, 1.9 million
Taylor Swift: Taylor Swift, 1.6 million
Metallica: Death Magnetic, 1.6 million
T.I.: Paper Trail, 1.5 million
Jack Johnson: Sleep Through the Static, 1.5 million
Beyonce: I Am … Sasha Fierce, 1.5 million.

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