The big four major labels jockeyed for elbow room last year, though market share levels remained mostly unchanged. Universal Music Group, the heavy-hitter of the group, retained a 31.6% share of US-based album sales for the year, slightly down from a 2005 level of 31.7%. Sony BMG carried a respectable second-place with a market share of 27.4%, level with last year. The Sony BMG tally is not far behind Universal, and suggests a relatively modest fallout from the rootkit recall in late 2005. Meanwhile, Warner Music Group moved to 18.1% during 2006, up from 17.3% in 2005. And EMI claimed a 10.2% share, down from 10.4% during the previous year. Other labels, including a large number of independents, grabbed a 12.6% share, down from 13.2% recorded in 2005. The shares were tallied by Nielsen Soundscan. The market share totals combine both current and catalog releases, though both Universal and Sony BMG drew stronger percentages from current releases. Specifically, Universal claimed a 34.4% share of newer releases, while Sony BMG grabbed 13.7%. Warner Music, EMI, and independents fared better in the catalog category. On the digital side, market share figures were fairly similar in the paid download category, though EMI was less fortunate. Universal grabbed nearly 33% of paid downloads, Sony BMG claimed 25.7%, Warner moved 19.7%, EMI pulled 7.9%, and independents claimed 13.8%. R&B album sales continued to decline in 2006. R&B, with album scans of 117 million units, was down 18.4 percent from 2005. Since 2000, total album sales have slid 25 percent, but R&B is down 41.4 percent.
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