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Credit: Jackson: MJJ Productions; Beatles: Apple Corps

Despite the impressive showings of pop-industry giants — Michael Jackson and the Beatles sold a combined 6.3 million albums this quarter alone — album sales are down 13.9% so far from last year. And that’s after a 14% dip in 2008 from 2007’s numbers, according to Reuters (via Rolling Stone).

Part of the problem? Dependable marquee acts aren’t holding up like they used to; Eminem’s Relapse has hit a respectable 1.4 million, but U2’s No Line on the Horizon only reached platinum two weeks ago, seven months after its release; neither Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown nor the Dave Matthews Band’s Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King have hit the million-copies mark yet.

Of course, 2009 isn’t over yet; we’ve got the Simon Cowell Army — Carrie Underwood, Kris Allen, Adam Lambert, Susan Boyle and Leona Lewis — all releasing albums in the next six weeks, along with Shakira, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, Alicia Keys, and John Mayer.

Either way, it’s a tough market out there. According to the Chicago Tribune, more than 115,000 albums were released last year; out of those, only 110 sold more than 250,000 copies.

This is just album sales, of course; it doesn’t account for touring, merch, ring tones, etc. But what do you think, readers — who or what can reverse the record industry’s steady downswing, in which sales have decreased in eight of the past nine years?

Is the future in digital singles? Reduced record prices? All Glambert, all the time? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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