SoundScan reports that U.S. record sales in the first six months of 2004 totaled 305.7 million units, compared with 285.9 million from January through June 2003.
With the heaviest retail period still to come in the holiday season, the music industry is expected to finish the year above 2003's tally of about 663 million albums sold. At the same time, growth in digital downloads has exploded, with nearly 54 million tracks purchased in the first 26 weeks of this year.
By comparison, SoundScan reported just 19.2 million paid downloads in the second half of last year — the first six months for which it tracked digital distribution.
Also in August, the Recording Industry Association of America announced that music downloads would be awarded gold and platinum based on sales. While CDs are certified gold with 500,000 copies shipped and platinum with one million, downloads earn a gold award with certified sales of 100,000 singles and a platinum award with 200,000.