Crunching the Numbers: July 2008, Digital Edition

Carrie Underwood, Digital Queen
Carrie Underwood, Digital Queen

One of the reasons cited for country's dramatic sales dip last year was that the consumer base was slow to adapting to digital distribution.  Taking a look at both current and all-time digital sales, it's quickly apparent how far country trails other genres.   However, there are a few artists who are crossing that digital divide, some consistently, and others with a signature song with significant crossover appeal.    Let's see how digital sales are going since the last time we checked in.

Digital Singles

On the current sales chart, the highest-charting country song is Sugarland's “All I Want to Do”, which is at #21.   Sugarland is one of a select few country acts that post strong digital numbers, a group that also includes Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.   In some cases, non-single tracks of these artists are outselling #1 country hits by other artists.Rascal Flatts was one of last year's strongest digital acts, but their recent hits haven't been doing as well on the digital front, and their only track in the top 200 is the older track “Life is a Highway.”

Here's a list of the country songs that are among this week's top 100 digital songs, along with their cumulative sales (rounded to the nearest ten)

21. Sugarland, “All I Want to Do” (260,110)
40. Taylor Swift, “Should've Said No” (376,110)
60. Carrie

Underwood, “Last Name” (441,050)
64. Toby Keith, “She Never Cried in Front of Me” (45,740)
69. Sugarland, Little Big Town & Jake Owen, “Life in a Northern Town” (131,690)
72. Miranda Lambert, “Gunpowder & Lead” (350,050)
79. Jessica Simpson, “Come on Over” (91,790)
90. Taylor Swift, 'Our Song” (1,690,800)
91. Keith Urban, “You Look Good in My Shirt” (93,890)
92. Alan Jackson, “Good Time” (128,380)
95. Taylor Swift, “Picture to Burn” (678,830)

When we looked at cumulative sales last year, there were ten country tracks among the top 200 digital songs of all-time. Now, there are just nine:

23. Carrie Underwood, “Before He Cheats” (2,419,280)
57. Taylor Swift, “Teardrops on My Guitar” (1,862,010)
69. Rascal Flatts, “Life is a Highway” (1,750,290)
80. Taylor Swift, “Our Song” (1,690,810)
97. Rascal Flatts, “What Hurts the Most” (1,560,250)
120. Rascal Flatts, “Bless the Broken Road” (1,322,230)
125. Carrie Underwood, “Jesus, Take the Wheel” (1,316,130)
150. Dixie Chicks, “Not Ready to Make Nice” (1,202,170)
156. Big & Rich, “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” (1,174,170)

Digital Albums

Things are even weaker for country on the digital album front, where there are only two entries in the top fifty: consistent seller Taylor Swift (#29), and newly-charting Randy Travis (#39).

The top-seller of all time remains Dixie Chicks' Taking the Long Way. However, while the album came in at #7 on the all-time list in May 2007, now it's down to #22. Country's share of the top 100 digital albums of all-time has also decreased from six last year to five this year.

22. Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way (196,800)
28. Carrie Underwood, Some Hearts (172,570)
40. Rascal Flatts, Me and My Gang (157,000)
44. Carrie Underwood, Carnival Ride (154,450)
77. Rascal Flatts, Still Feels Good (112,140)

So what do you think about these numbers?



  1. One question I’ve always had is whether or not digital album sales are factored into over all album sales? Or is the Bilboard chart comprised of albums that have been shipped to stores?

  2. I was reading somewhere recently that digital music sales currently account for about 15% of overall music sales but of course that percentage is increasing over time.

    Younger people who are high tech savvy with their fancy cell phones and PDAs and MP3 players are the primary music download demographic and Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Rascal Flatts appeal to these folks in a big way. I can’t imagine that most long term fans of George Strait and Alan Jackson are interested in digital downloads as long as they can buy a physical CD instead. Its younger folks who liked Alan’s “Good Time” that downloaded that new single.

    My beef is with the record labels ONLY offering digital download releases of some albums without making a CD available even in limited quantities. I prefer CDs and get quite unhappy with the labels when they pull this stunt of download only. By not offering a CD many potential buyers who don’t download will pass on a new release so download sales numbers are smaller than total sales would have been if a CD had been released. Although the music labels have labelled “Download Only” album releases, like Jennifer Hanson’s latest, as “cutting edge” its truly just a cheap ass cop-out on their part and a real disservice to the artist. A digital only release is far better than no release at all, but still falls far short of an actual CD release in my book…

  3. Rick,

    I have to tell ya, I’ve been pretty much all digital for a couple of years now. The only CD’s I get anymore are ones not available digitally, and the stacks of promos that come in. I have to say, though, that looking through the new Sugarland, reading the lining notes and lyrics, made me want to go back to CD’s.

    Nothing beats having 13k songs in the palm of my hand, and I don’t miss bulky Discman’s or making mix tapes, but I love handling CD’s. I guess it’s similar to the nostalgia those of the record generations feel.

  4. I agree completely with Rick. I object to albums being made available only digitally. For one thing, the audio of downloaded music isn’t quite as good as that of CDs (this seems to be a trend, since digital sound isn’t quite as good as analog). Plus the archival value of Cds, LPs etc is lost through digital downloading

  5. I actually broke out my old turntable from storage. I’ve got a couple of needles ordered that should arrive any minute. I just love the old vinyl sound. Guess I’m regressing instead of progressing but then you should see my album collection! Heh!

    I buy CDs and have little downloaded except stuff I find interesting on the net. To me a physical CD is a personal connection with the artist. My kids? All the fancy high tech gadgets and download only.

    Hmmmmm, now where did I put all those old reel to reel tapes? ;-)

  6. I’ve turned to digital in the last couple of months or so. It’s just become much more convenient for me. I do miss the liner notes though. I haven’t really noticed a difference in the digital sound,but I know it technically exists.

    I still buy physical CDs to add to already existing collections. For example, I had to buy Randy Travis’ album in CD form, since I already have his other 16 studio albums..

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