Physical record sales are down, but digital downloads are way up in 2006 as Disney leads the way with "High School Musical" and Rascal Flatts.

By Chris Morris

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Physical album sales continued to decline in the U.S. during the first six months of 2006, down 4.2 percent in comparison to the same period last year.

However, Nielsen SoundScan figures indicate that digital sales might boost the business as a whole. Sales of digital albums soared 126 percent during the first half of the year, while digital tracks rose 77 percent.

Looking at the entire sales picture -- comprising physical albums, digital albums and digital tracks -- overall sales to date this year have gained about one-tenth of a percentage point over the first six months of '05.

A total of 270.6 million physical albums were sold domestically through the end of June, representing a drop of 12 million units from last year's six-month total of 282.6 million.

Digital albums improved by 8.2 million units, with 14.7 million units sold since January versus just 6.4 million units in the first half of 2005. Digital tracks gained by 122 million units; 281 million tracks were sold in the first six months of the year versus 158 million in the same period last year.

The top-selling title of the year so far is Walt Disney Records' "High School Musical" soundtrack, which has shifted 2.6 million copies to date. Disney's Lyric Street imprint also accounts for the No. 2 release, Rascal Flatts' "Me and My Gang," which is just shy of 2 million units.
Full Story: Digital sales fuel record biz in first-half '06