Overall album sales continued to plummet, as they fell to 535 million unites in 2008, down 8.5% from 584.9 million in 2007, according to a report released today (Dec. 31) by the Nielsen Company. That figure include physical CDs and track equivalent albums that are downloaded (Nielsen counts 10 or more tracks downloaded from an album as an album download)

The good news is that overall music sales (albums, singles, music video and digital tracks) rose 10.5%  to 1.5 billion units, according to Nielsen SoundScan. While that number is good, labels make the highest percentage of money from albums, so the slide of that sector continues to signal bad news.

Digital track sales (downloads of individual songs) passed the 1 billion mark for the first time, increasing 27% from 2007's 844 million. Digital album sales also increased to 65.8 million, up 32% over 2007.  However, not all was good news on the internet: sales of physical albums purchased over the internet through companies such as Amazon, dropped 8.6%.

Every genre of music took a dive in sales in 2008, but among the hardest hit genres were country, which dropped 24% in sales, while R&B and Rap (which are split) each dropped more than 19%. Comparatively, rock remains strong: rock dropped 6.5%, alternative rock 8.7% and metal only 4.7%.