Country Sales Down in ’99, SoundScan Reports

Country album sales took a tumble in 1999 while most other formats sold more than in the year before. This is one of the revelations in the year-end report issued yesterday (Jan. 5) by SoundScan, the company that tracks the point-of-purchase sale of recorded music in the U. S. The report covers the period from Jan. 4, 1999, to Jan. 2, 2000.

According to SoundScan’s figures, country album sales dropped from 72,605,000 in 1998 to 69,300,000 in 1999, a dip of nearly 3.5 million albums. The only other types of music to go down in sales from their 1998 totals were soundtrack and new age albums. R&B was the top musical format of 1999 with sales of 175,339,000 albums.

It was not entirely bleak news for country, however. Two of the 10 bestselling albums of the year were by country acts. Shania Twain’s Come on Over racked up sales of 5,618,134 to earn a fourth-place finish, while the Dixie Chicks’ Wide Open Spaces placed tenth with sales of 3,463,642. The top selling album was the Backstreet Boys’ Millennium, with 9,445,732 copies within the year.

There are also two country albums in the top 10 selling albums of “the SoundScan era,” the period from May, 1991, when SoundScan began tracking sales, to the present. Twain’s Come on Over reaped a total of 12,110,660 albums sold during this almost nine-year period. She placed second behind Alanis Morissette, whose Jagged Little Pill reached the 13,542,393 mark. Garth Brooks’ Ropin’ the Wind secured the ninth place with sales of 9,370,863.

By SoundScan’s count, there were 141,096,000 albums sold in 1999, up from 132,634,000 in 1998.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to