New figures to be published later in January 2009 show that music sales in the UK have fallen to levels last seen in the 1980s.
And recent data from the USA, show that sales volumes fell 8.5 per cent, with digital downloads included. Because of heavy discounting at retail, revenue for record companies is likely to be lower still.
A spokesman for Universal Music UK, home of U2 and Take That, told The Times: "Ten years ago, an album just getting in the Top 20 would end up selling 75,000 copies. But today, it's going to sell about 50,000 - and when the market is down like that, it makes finding the big hits more important. It is the middle of the market that is weakening."
Duffy, Lil Wayne are top sellers
In the UK, Duffy's Rockferry was the 2008's biggest-selling album, with 1.68 million copies sold. In the US, it was Lil Wayne's album Tha Carter III, which sold 2.88 million copies.
Martin Talbot, marketing director of the UK's Offical Charts Company, the body which compiles the charts, said: "The big acts continue to sell in roughly similar volumes. Last year there were only four singers or bands that managed over a million album sales, one fewer than this year. Three singles sold over half a million this year, compared with two last year."
Music sales for 2008
UK Music Market
Singles sold: 100.6m +55.3%
Albums sold: 124.6 million -5.6%
Total market: -2.2%
US Music Market
Digital singles: 1.07 billion +10.5%
Albums sold: 428.4 million -14%
Total market: -8.5%