Mid-Year Report: Classical Album Sales Down, Digital Tracks Up

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In the first six months of 2012, classical album sales dropped 18.1 percent to 3 million units, according to a mid-year Nielsen SoundScan report released Thursday (3.7 million units were sold in the corresponding period of 2011).

At the same time, sales of digital albums continued to enjoy modest growth — jumping 7.2 percent to 4 million units — but that was not large enough to offset the decline in CD album sales.

Andrea Bocelli had the biggest classical album with "Concerto: One Night in Central Park," selling 66,000 copies, while Josh Grobin had the top-selling digital track with "You Raise Me Up," moving 79,000 downloads.

The figures cover sales up to the week ending on July 1, the half-way point of SoundScan's tracking year.

Across all genres, album sales have dropped 3.2 percent so far this year while downloads have jumped 13.8 percent. 

After a surprise 1.3 percent uptick in total sales last year — the first increase since 2004 — the decline this year suggests a return to business as usual for the recording industry. "In the second quarter of this year, the CD album again began to act like it did during 2006-2010, when the format saw annual sales declines in the 18%-20% range," notes Ed Christman of Billboard magazine.

Of the other major genres, only country music and jazz have seen growth in 2012. Country experienced a 5.8 percent increase in album sales while jazz album sales were up 2.6 percent. 

Vinyl collectors can also take heart. The format has continued its growth, gaining 14.2 percent; 2.2 million LPs were sold in the first six months of the year, vs. 1.9 million during the corresponding period last year.

Weigh in: How do you get your music today? How has it changed from in years' past?