US Album sales have seen a decline for several years in a row as sales of digital music continue to soar. However, according researcher Nielsen SoundScan, downloaded tracks fail to make up for a continued decline in album sales.

A total of 229.8 million albums were sold in the U.S. between Jan. 1 and July 1, according to Nielsen SoundScan figures released Wednesday. That's a 15 percent decrease over the same period last year. Meanwhile digital tracks sales increased 49 percent to 417.3 million this year.
The decline for compact disc sales is more drastic than in previous years – 2006 saw a 4% drop compared with 2005, which was 10% lower than 2004 – and various factors contribute to the slide, namely the shift to track downloads, which has grown 659% since 2004, and the loss of nearly a thousand retail outlets from the shuttered Tower and Musicland chains.

Industry insiders say the pop music's emphasis on hit singles is making customers skip the full albums and buy only the songs they want online. There's no question that the music industry is in the midst of huge changes, as the trend is likely to continue in favor of digital music downloads.