Album sales are down 11.1 percent in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the same period last year, Reuters reports based on figures provided by Nielsen SoundScan. That decline comes even with the influx of sales after Michael Jackson's death and the release of the Beatles remasters, as both artists' respective catalogs have combined for about 6.3 million in sales this quarter. Even with the unexpected push from the catalog albums, total sales are still down 13.9 percent from 2008, a year which itself saw its sales drop 14 percent compared to 2007. If the trend continues, this will mark the eighth time in nine years that the record industry has seen a decline.
According to Reuters, 2009's biggest seller so far has been Michael Jackson's Number Ones compilation, which sold 1.8 million copies since the King of Pop's death on June 25th. Sluggish sales can't be blamed on a lack of marquee releases, though, as artists who have generally gone multiplatinum in the past — like Green Day, Eminem, Dave Matthews Band and U2 — have all put out high-profile releases this year. Eminem's Relapse has lead the charge with 1.4 million copies since its release in May. After 30 weeks on the Billboard chart, U2's No Line on the Horizon reached platinum two weeks ago, while Green Day's 21st Century Breakdown and DMB's Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King have yet to pass the million copies sold mark.
There is some help in the coming months, between Eminem's Relapse 2, a pair of long delayed hip-hop albums in 50 Cent's Before I Self Destruct and Lil Wayne's Rebirth (Weezy's Tha Carter III was the best-selling album of 2008), Michael Jackson's This Is It soundtrack, the debut discs from American Idol's Kris Allen and Adam Lambert, plus reported releases by Alicia Keys, Leona Lewis, Shakira, John Mayer, Carrie Underwood, Weezer and more.
For info on all the big releases due out in these final months of 2009, check out Rolling Stone's Fall Music Preview.