His album was called ''Get Rich or Die Tryin''', and listeners granted him Option A. 50 Cent's major-label debut was the top-selling CD of 2003, selling 6.5 million copies, according to SoundScan. He took the crown from his mentor and label boss, Eminem, whose ''The Eminem Show'' was the top-selling disc of 2002 (7.6 million CDs). In second place was Norah Jones, whose multiple Grammy wins last February helped her sell 5.1 million copies of ''Come Away With Me'' in 2003. Since its release nearly two years ago, that record has sold almost 8 million copies.
In third place was Linkin Park, whose ''Hybrid Theory'' was 2001's top seller; the band's 2003 release ''Meteora'' sold 3.5 million copies. Newcomers Evanescence sold 3.4 million copies of ''Fallen,'' finishing fourth for the year. OutKast's ''Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,'' which has sold 3.1 million copies so far, finished fifth, but is still selling well, topping the Billboard album chart last week for the third time in its three months in stores. Rounding out the top 10 were Beyoncé's ''Dangerously in Love'' (2.5 million sold), R. Kelly's ''Chocolate Factory'' (2.4 million), Hilary Duff's ''Metamorphosis'' (2.4 million), Toby Keith's ''Shock'N Y'All'' (2.3 million), and Coldplay's 2002 release ''A Rush of Blood to the Head'' (2.2 million).
Overall, the record industry saw its third straight year of declining CD sales, though the drop this year was modest compared to last year (down 2 percent in 2003, after falling 9 percent in 2002). 2003 was also the year the industry finally got listeners to start paying for online downloads, thanks in part to the threat of lawsuits against file-swappers and the rise of cheap, legal, and easy pay services like Apple's iTunes Music Store, which sold 25 million songs at 99 cents a pop during its first nine months of operation. The year's most downloaded iTunes tune: OutKast's ''Hey Ya!''