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Are The Beatles responsible for music's digital growth in 2011?

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Nielsen announced yesterday that music sales in the US are up 1.6 percent in 2011. That might not seem like a lot, but for the embattled music industry, any growth is good news. Interestingly, Nielsen seems to ascribe the growth of music sales to The Beatles' deal with Apple. As Nielsen says in its report, "Catalog album sales are up 5.4 percent in 2011, thanks in part to a long-awaited 2010 deal allowing digital distribution of The Beatles' albums for the first time." The Fab Four's music exclusively went on sale on iTunes in November to much fanfare.

I, for one, hate when someone can't admit when they were wrong, so let me say that I myself didn't think The Beatles news was that big of a deal. If Nielsen is right, it looks like I was very wrong. However, Peter Kafka at All Things D does seems to come to my rescue by saying that he has "a hard time believing the 'Love Me Do' bump extended into March and April," six months after The Beatles' debut on iTunes. But with the music industry the way it is, maybe The Beatles did help fuel a turnaround.

Other interesting stats from the Nielsen report include a decline in physical album sales year-over-year while digital album and track purchases increased 16.8 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively, and digital retailers, like Apple's iTunes, received more than half of all music transactions.

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