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Country Music Wraps 2005 On Strong Note

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) —

While the bulk of the music industry slumped with an across-the-board decline of more than 7 percent for music sales in 2005, country music finished stronger than every format except Latin with a more modest 3 percent drop, according to figures released by Nielsen SoundScan.

Sales of Top Current Country Albums were strong in the holiday sales period (the last six weeks of 2005), finishing ahead of the same period in 2004 by eight percent, while sales of the Top 200 Current Albums fell 16 percent, according to Nielsen SoundScan's annual tally.

During the busiest retail week of the year (Dec. 19-25), 11 country albums scanned more than 100,000 units each including albums by Carrie Underwood (400,625); Kenny Chesney (268,898); The Legend of Johnny Cash (177,548); Rascal Flatts (172,369); Faith Hill (145,498); Trace Adkins (134,157); Reba McEntire (124,086); Keith Urban (122,780); Martina McBride (121,099); Big & Rich (119,323); and Sugarland (117,476). Gretchen Wilson was close behind with 98,366.

Overall, the number of albums sold in 2005 was 75.3 million down from 77.9 million in 2004, but country's market share increased in 2005 from 11.69 to 12.7 percent. Frustrating the number watchers is that Garth Brooks' box set, which was sold exclusively at Wal-Mart, was not included in the Nielsen SoundScan count. The retail giant has said that more than a million copies have been sold, but estimates place that figure as high as 2.5 million.

"If those numbers had been included in the final SoundScan figures, we would have ended the year on the positive side of the equation," Genovese said. "Still, country music held its own during a very tumultuous period for the music industry. The creative depth of our artistic community, loyalty of our fan base and the breakthrough success of some of our bright new talent all contributed to this achievement."

Contributing to those gains in 2005 was a diverse slate of performers representing the broad terrain of the format from newcomers Underwood and Sugarland to legacy artist Cash; cross-over superstar Faith Hill to Kenny Chesney; Toby Keith, who continued to sell strong in 2005, to trio Rascal Flatts, who broke into the upper sales ranks across all formats for the first time. The trio's album Feels Like Today sold 2,511,209 units in 2005, claiming the No. 7 best selling album of the year spot among all genres.

"The diversity of these performers illustrates the strength and future potential of the genre," Genovese said. "Country music is strong as a format, when you have artists at virtually every phase of their careers selling albums at this pace."

The Top 10 Country albums of 2005, according to Nielsen SoundScan
(Dec. 28, 2005 YTD):

Top 10 Country Albums (in millions):

1. Feels Like Today, Rascal Flatts 2.5 million

2. The Road & The Radio, Kenny Chesney 1.8 million

3. Be Here, Keith Urban 1.7 million

4. Some Hearts, Carrie Underwood 1.6 million

5. Fireflies, Faith Hill 1.5 million

6. Twice The Speed of Life, Sugarland 1.5 million

7. Honkytonk University, Toby Keith 1.4 million

8. Here for the Party, Gretchen Wilson 1.2 million

9. Be As You Are, Kenny Chesney 1.1 million
10. Vol. 2 Greatest Hits, Toby Keith 1.0 million

  • Albums making simultaneous No. 1 debuts on the Billboard 200 and
    Country Albums Charts in 2005 included Kenny Chesney's Be As You Are
    and The Road and the Radio; Faith Hill's Fireflies; George Strait's
    Somewhere Down in Texas; and Gretchen Wilson's All Jacked Up.

  • Garth Brooks released Garth Brooks: The Limited Series box set
    exclusively at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club locations on November 25. Wal-Mart
    said the box set sold more than 500,000 copies on its first day of
    release making it the top-selling musical component in Wal-Mart
    history. In the second week after its release, Wal-Mart said the
    box set had sold more than 1 million copies. RIAA has not yet
    certified these sales, and they are also not
    reflected in the Nielsen SoundScan figures.

  • Country female newcomers Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood made
    their mark in 2005. Lambert's debut album Kerosene and Underwood's Some
    Hearts both entered the Billboard Country Albums Chart at No. 1. At the
    end of 2005, Lambert's album went gold.
    Underwood's album sold 314,000 units in its first week making it the
    biggest first week sales of a debut album by a new country artist in
    Nielsen SoundScan history. The album was certified hold after only two
    weeks in stores and was certified platinum soon after. Underwood's
    album continued to be a strong seller throughout the holiday sales
    period and into the new year with more RIAA certifications sure to
    follow in 2006.

  • The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified 35 gold,
    22 platinum and 15 multi-platinum, including one diamond, country albums.
    Gold indicates sales of 500,000 units; platinum indicates sales of 1
    million units; multi-platinum is for each successive million units
    sold; and diamond indicates sales of 10 million albums. The RIAA
    continues to award these rankings throughout the life of the album; an
    album does not have to be released in the same year it achieves one or
    more of these rankings.

  • Patsy Cline's Greatest Hits album received the diamond
    award for reaching 10 million units sold in 2005.

  • Big & Rich (Horse of a Different Color) received their first multi-
    platinum album certification in 2005 selling over 2 million albums.
    Dierks Bentley (Dierks Bentley); Chris LeDoux (20 Greatest Hits);
    Sugarland (Twice The Speed Of Life); and Carrie Underwood (Some Hearts)
    received their first platinum album certifications in 2005. Jason
    Aldean (Jason Aldean); Rodney Carrington (Greatest Hits); Josh Gracin
    (Josh Gracin); Miranda Lambert (Kerosene); Sugarland (Twice The Speed
    Of Life); and Carrie Underwood (Some Hearts) received their first gold
    album certifications in 2005.

  • In 2004, RIAA launched the Digital Sales Awards, reflecting sales of
    singles downloaded from legal online music sites. RIAA Digital Gold
    Sales Awards were given to 34 country singles and a Platinum Sales
    Award went to six singles in 2005. Single tracks are awarded gold
    (100,000 downloads), platinum (200,000) and multi-platinum (400,000+)
    certifications. Platinum Digital Sales certifications went to Big &
    Rich's "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy;" Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were
    Dying;" Rascal Flatts' "Bless The Broken Road;" Keith Urban's "You'll
    Think Of Me;" Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman;" and Lee Ann Womack's
    "I Hope You Dance."

  • In addition, the RIAA certified five gold (50,000 units sold) and four
    platinum (100,000 units sold) country longform videos. Platinum country
    longform videos included Trace Adkins (Video Hits); Big & Rich (Super
    Galactic Fan Pack); and Keith Urban (Video Hits and Livin' Right Now.

Top Top 10 Country
tours based on attendance, according to Pollstar magazine for shows
played between January –December 31, 2005:

1. Kenny Chesney 1,131,326

2. Rascal Flatts 807,899

3. Toby Keith 684,968

4. Jimmy Buffett 536,391

5. Keith Urban 515,596

6. Brooks & Dunn 489,239

7. 7. Brad Paisley 362,341

8 8. Alison Krauss and Union
Station Featuring Jerry
Douglas 292,217

9. George Strait 261,322

10. Alan Jackson 247,202

Some of country's hottest stars teamed up on the road in 2005. Reba
McEntire, Terri Clark and Brad Paisley had the "Two Hats and a Redhead
Tour;" Brooks & Dunn hooked up with duos Big & Rich
and the Warren Brothers for the "Deuces Wild Tour;" Kenny Chesney
invited Gretchen Wilson, Keith Urban, Uncle Kracker and Pat Green on
his "Somewhere in the Sun Tour;" and Alan Jackson and Sara Evans
collaborated on the "What I Do Tour." Urban headlined his own tour,
"Livin' Right Now," with Little Big Town and Miranda Lambert. Toby
Keith invited Lee Ann Womack and Shooter Jennings on his "Big Throwdown
II Tour." Rascal Flatts and Blake Shelton and Shelly Fairchild
performed on the "Here's To You Tour." –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen