The American industry has suffered year-on-year losses continuously since 2000 but this year's downturn is going to be the biggest yet - even before that 29% slump is factored in, year-to-date sales were down 12.6%, with 37,679,350 fewer albums sold thus far in 2008 compared to 2007 - a shortfall of nearly a million a week.
Just three albums sold more than 100,000 copies last week, whereas the entire Top 10 sold more than 100,000 in the same week last year. Leading this week's list, the Twilight soundtrack - a hard rock selection, including new songs from Linkin Park, Paramore and Collective Soul among others - nabs the number one slot ahead of the film's release, with sales of 164,710.
That's enough to relegate AC/DC's Black Ice to runners-up slot after two weeks at number one. The AC/DC album sold 159,528 copies last week, taking its 20-day-career tally to 1,214,768.
High School Musical 3 also registered a six-figure sale, attracting 109,978 buyers as it slips 2-3.
Aside from the Twilight soundtrack, there are three other Top 10 debuts: alternative rock group Hinder snare their second Top 10 album, courtesy of Take It To The Limit, in at number four on sales of 81,374 copies; Italian operatic tenor Andrea Bocelli's fourth Top 10 album Incanto debuts at number eight on sales of 62,229 copies; country star Brad Paisley registers his fourth Top 10 album since 2003, with Play arriving at number nine on sales of 53,697 copies. All four Paisley albums have reached number one on the country chart.
Snow Patrol were the highest ranked UK act on the chart last week but their A Hundred Million Suns album suffers a precipitous 69% second week slide, diving 9-35 with sales of 14,916,
Two other UK acts with Top 20 debuts last week suffer similar slumps: The Cure's 4:13 Dream suffers a nightmare 16-60 tumble with sales of 9,159 (62% down); while Bloc Party's Intimacy suffers a literal reversal, sliding 18-81, with sales of 6,714 - 72% below its first frame.
Coldplay's Viva La Vide Or Death And All His Friends slips 21-24 but regains its status as the top album by a UK act. It sold 19,570 copies, lifting its 21-week cumulative tally to 1,886,227.
Among 22 debuts peppered around the Top 200 are eight albums of Christmas songs. Leading the seasonal influx is A Winter Symphony, by Sarah Brightman, in at number 38 on sales of 13,518 copies.
It's Brightman's 11th Top 200 entry, and the follow-up to her highest charting set, the similarly-titled Symphony, which debuted and peaked at number 13 in February. Symphony was Brightman's fourth number one on the Classical Crossover chart but A Winter Symphony has to settle for a number three debut on the chart, behind the new Andrea Bocelli and Yo-Yo Ma albums.
The only other UK debut on the Top 200 this week comes from Travis, whose Ode To J. Smith makes a muted arrival at number 122, on sales of 4,586 copies. It's the Scots group's fifth chart album to date. They previously reached number 135 with The Man Who (2000), number 39 with The Invisible Band (2001), number 42 with 12 Memories (2003), and number 58 with The Boy With No Name (2007).
On the Hot 100 singles chart, massive gains in airplay more than compensate for a 3% slip in sales of T.I. feat. Rihanna's Live Your Life, which remains at number one.
The week's biggest seller is Kanye West's Heartless, which shifted 201,247 copies on its first week of availability as a download. With airplay still fairly low, it earns the track a number four debut on the Hot 100 just seven weeks after predecessor Love Lockdown made a sensational number three debut. Only American Idol winner David Cook's Time Of My Life (number three) and runner-up David Archuleta's Crush (number two) have made debuts of similar or greater magnitude this year.