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Album Sales Hit a New Low Last Week

Second time this year that sales have dropped below 5 million

August 19, 2010 1:02 PM ET

The struggling music industry hit a new low last week: Only 4.95 million albums were sold in the U.S. between August 8th and 14th — the lowest total since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking numbers in 1991. The one other time album sales fell short of five million copies? Earlier this year, during the week ending May 30th, when 4.98 million albums sold.

Sales ebbed despite another big week for the Number One album, Eminem's Recovery, which moved 133,000 copies, becoming 2010's second double-platinum. (Lady Antebellum's Need You Now has still accumulated more sales.) But Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, which dropped to number two in its second week, fell dramatically, from 156,000 to 52,000 copies. The Camp Rock 2 soundtrack, which came in at number three, sold only 41,000 copies.

Next week is looking up, slightly, with new albums from Ray LaMontagne and Iron Maiden. Albums due from Taylor Swift, Kanye West, T.I., Susan Boyle and Michael Jackson should also boost the rest of 2010.

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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