That’s the story from Nielsen SoundScan & BDS. The ratings company says 2005 marked the first time the recording industry moved 1 billion units. What’s more, it appears that online sales, either direct downloads or ordering CDs for snail mail delivery, proved to be a major factor in breaking the nine-figure threshold.

According to Nielsen SoundScan & BDS, digital album sales experienced a 194 percent increase from the previous year, with 16.2 million units sold compared to 5.5 million in 2004. Purchasing albums through online commerce sites such as Amazon Amazon rose 11.3 percent, from 22.2 million in 2004 to 24.7 million in 2005.

And what about selling individual tracks via the Net through online stores like iTunes and Napster? A 150 percent increase over 2004, with 352.7 million tracks sold in 2005 compared against 140.9 million in 2004.

What were music fans buying online?

The number one “digital” artist for 2005 based on track sales was Green Day, with almost 3.5 million tracks sold.

The number one digital track was Weezer’s “Beverly Hills,” which sold 961,981 downloads, while the number one top-selling digital song (combining all versions of the title) was Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl.” Nickelback’s “Photograph” had the biggest selling week for a digital track with sales of 149,000.

All in all, over 250 million digital tracks were purchased last year, resulting in a 150 percent increase over the previous year.

2005 was also the first year a digital track sold more than 100,000 units, and eight different tracks achieved that milestone. Eleven different digital songs broke the 100,000 mark.

And let’s not forget ringtones. Number one was 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” clocking in at 1,891,000 units sold.

While no one is predicting the immediate death of brick & mortar music stores, the latest Nielsen SoundScan & BDS report affirms that consumers feel quite comfortable getting their music fix online. What’s more, no one is predicting download sales to stabilize or even decrease during 2006.

The Orchard Goes V Casting

Independent music distributor The Orchard has inked a deal with Verizon Wireless to supply indie tunes for its new V Cast Music Service.

Verizon wants V Cast to be the premier music seller for cell phones.

With V Cast, Verizon subscribers can purchase and download songs directly to their cell phones, thus bypassing the computer link in the digital music chain. However, for those who must use a computer, V Cast tunes can also be downloaded to Windows machines and transferred to cell phones.

In addition to The Orchard, V Cast will also feature music from the four major labels.

“V Cast Music from Verizon Wireless is the most comprehensive mobile music service in the world,” said John Stratton, VP and chief marketing officer for Verizon Wireless. “We want V Cast consumers to experience their music anytime, anywhere, and have access to a deep and diverse set of music that will appeal to virtually every music fan.”