Nielsen SoundScan on Wednesday said it will start tracking digital downloads of music from commercial online services as sentiment for music on the Web brightens with successful offerings like Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes music store.
Nielsen Soundscan, a unit of Nielsen Entertainment, which is owned by VNU NV,, provides weekly retail music sales information that serves as the basis for the popular weekly Billboard Magazine music charts.
The company said that it will now be tracking downloads sold on Apple’s service, Pressplay, MusicNet, and also Listen.com and Liquid Audio.
Nielsen Soundscan said it will also track data from Napster when that service re-launches as a secure, commercial service.
“We’ve been closely watching the explosion of online music, and the various formats that are driving it,” said Rob Sisco, president Nielsen Music, and chief operating officer of Nielsen Entertainment East Coast Operations.
“Purchasing digital downloads has proven to be a viable emerging technology among a rapidly growing segment of music fans,” he said.
Nielsen SoundScan said digital downloads will be reported under its “non-traditional” category, including Internet, mail order and concert venue sales.
Despite total overall CD sales in 2002 being down 8.7 percent, the nontraditional category has shown a dramatic increase in sales, increasing in number from 2.2 million in 1997 to more then 22 million in 2002, Nielsen Soundscan said.
Additionally, sales of albums via Internet retailers accounted for 79 percent of all nontraditional sales in 2002, it said.
Digital download sales of recorded albums and singles will be included in the Nielsen SoundScan album and singles sales charts, respectively.