Here’s another one of those interesting little end of the year statistical snapshots that are in abundance this week.

The most successful album of 2006 will have sold fewer than 4 million copies, the third time in the past six years the best seller has failed to crack five million.

It’s been six years since the top selling album topped 8 million copies.

I’m sure the RIAA and other industry spokespeople will probably blame piracy for the declining sales of CDs.

However, they need to look at a few other trends to find the answer as to why those little shiny disks are not moving as well as in the past.

For one thing, people have wised up to the fact that there really isn’t enough good material on most albums to warrant paying for the whole thing.

Combine that with the fact that we’re getting used to the idea of buying and downloading single tracks, and the music companies are likely to see even lower album sales in 2007.

And then there is the “long tail“, the concept popularized by Chris Anderson’s Wired article and book.

The web has enabled people to find and buy millions of tracks that extend way beyond the “hot 100” – the long tail of music retailing. That’s money they’re not spending on the current releases from the major labels.

However, it’s the next step that will give the music industry even more nightmares. A growing number of artists are learning to use the web to market their music directly to an audience.

It’s only a matter of time before one of them achieves enough sales to be considered a hit, even by the standards of music industry accountants.

By the way, the best selling album of 2006 was the soundtrack from the Disney TV movie “High School Musical”. No, I didn’t buy a copy either.

music, sales, long tail