706942_going_up.jpgAs album sales tank, the one silver lining in the industry has been the increase in digital sales. Country music consumers have been slow to adapt to the format, but as time has gone on, some of the more popular acts have begun posting some very strong digital numbers.

This week, Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” sold just under 58,000 – good enough to push it past two Rascal Flatts tracks for the top-selling country download of all-time.   Just to show how much country lags in the market:  Underwood’s track is #1 for the genre, but only #42 overall.    Also of note:  Underwood’s charity single “I’ll Stand By You”, which was only available for a few days of the tracking week, still managed to sell 124,496 downloads, making it the #2 track of all genres for the week.

I’ll be discussing retail and digital sales in relation to airplay later this week, but for now, here are the top ten digital country tracks of all-time:

  1. Before He Cheats – Carrie Underwood  (1,122,447 downloads to date)
  2. Life is a Highway – Rascal Flatts  (1,121,495)
  3. What Hurts the Most – Rascal Flatts (1,102,425)
  4. Not Ready to Make Nice – Dixie Chicks (921,555)
  5. Jesus, Take the Wheel – Carrie Underwood (919,712)
  6. Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy) – Big & Rich  (752,188)
  7. Live Like You Were Dying – Tim McGraw (639,015)
  8. Tim McGraw – Taylor Swift (540,716)
  9. My Wish – Rascal Flatts (524,666)
  10. Redneck Woman – Gretchen Wilson (497,141)

For the record, Wilson’s track comes in at #199 on the all-genre list, so that’s only ten country tracks among the top 200 digital singles to date.  Unsurprisingly, there’s little country penetration on the top digital albums chart as well, though the top country digital album to date – the Grammy-sweeping Dixie Chicks smash Taking the Long Way, is #7 overall.   Two artists that worked on that album are also in the top ten: John Mayer (#1) and Red Hot Chili Peppers (#10).  There are only five other country albums among the top 100 digital albums to date:

  1. Taking the Long Way – Dixie Chicks  (173,072)
  2. Me and My Gang – Rascal Flatts (124,036)
  3. Some Hearts – Carrie Underwood (110,537)
  4. Walk the Line – Soundtrack (71,417)
  5. 16 Biggest Hits – Johnny Cash (65,009)
  6. Love, Pain and the Whole Crazy Thing – Keith Urban (54,584)

Much like the country audience held on to the cassette format far longer than consumers of rock, pop and hip-hop, it is going to take a while for digital sales of country acts to be more consistent with retail sales.   Will 2007 be the year it happens?