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Digital Music Sales Break Another Record

New York – Digital music sales notched a third consecutive record-breaking week in the period ended Jan. 2, thanks to the ripple effect from a Christmas-inspired sales surge of MP3 players and download gift cards.

Digital track volume spiked by 1.6 million transactions last week, making a seven-day total of 6.7 million downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

The jump marks an all-time high for download sales in a single week, breaking the benchmark of 5.04 million in the week ending Dec. 26.

This marks the first time in the history of the Billboard Hot Digital Tracks chart that download sales have posted volume increases of more than 1 million transactions in successive weeks. (In the week ended Dec. 26, sales rose by 1.1 million transactions to surpass the 5 million mark).

The impact of gift card sales on the holiday growth spurt was particularly notable, label distribution executives say.

“A hot Christmas gift-giving item was the ability to give digital music via digital gift cards,” said Susan Roberts, senior VP of new media at Universal Music & Video Distribution. “So I think we’re seeing a response to the iPod sales over the holiday season but also the redemption of some of those gift cards.”

Ciara’s “1, 2 Step,” was the top-selling track on the current Hot Digital Tracks chart with 49,500 downloads. Four tracks on the chart surpassed the prior one-week sales record of 37,000 units, set by U2’s “Vertigo” in October 2004.

On Nielsen SoundScan’s new Digital Songs chart, which combines multiple versions of tracks, Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” set a new collective sales mark with 57,500 paid transactions.

Full-year track sales topped 142 million downloads for 2004, not including full-album downloads.

Apple Computer’s iTunes Music Store appeared to be driving the bulk of the downloading volume because of the popularity of its iPod music players.

Apple declined to comment. However, the company recently announced that it has sold more than 200 million downloads – both singles and album bundles – since the introduction of iTunes in 2003.

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