Universal tops slowing business

Annual tally just .07% below '06 midyear share

Universal Music Group continues to dominate the music industry with a 31.59% market share, as the industry battles with a 15% drop in sales from the first half of 2006.

U has been running a rather steady course the past three years: This year’s tally is just 0.07% below its midyear share in 2006, which was less than half a percentage point lower than it was a year earlier.

Warner Music Group and EMI showed small increases over last year; WMG rose 0.7% to 20%, while EMI rose to 10.34% from 10%. Sony BMG dipped 1% to 25.23% in the year-to-year comparison. The figures take into account all sales.

When looking at current titles in digital formats, however, the playing field begins to level out. UMG’s lead is much slimmer: 25.9% to Sony BMG’s 23.7%. Warner Music is right on their heels with 23.3%.

For the first half of 2007, 229.8 million albums were sold, a 15% drop from the 270.6 million sold in 2006, according to Nielsen SoundScan. In 2005, 282.6 million albums were sold in the first six months.

When the sales of singles are totaled and placed in an album format — every 10 singles equals an album disc — the count is down 9.2% from 2006.

Digital track sales are up 49% over this time last year, hitting 417.3 million. Last year at the midyear point, 281 million tracks had been sold.

Norah Jones’ “Not Too Late” (EMI Blue Note) is the top seller among albums released this year at 1.4 million, coming in at No. 2 overall behind last year’s “Daughtry,” from BMG’s RCA, with 1.7 million. In third is Akon’s “Konvicted” (1.3 million) and Linkin Park’s “Minutes to Midnight” (1.2 million). Gwen Stefani’s “Sweet Escape,” a Universal release, is the most popular digital track this year, selling 1.8 million.

Still, sales of current titles are down 17% — 137.6 million vs. 166.1 million in 2006. Catalog is off 12% at 92.2 million vs. 104.5 million a year ago.

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