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The Beatles are on iTunes and music sales are up; coincidence?

An announcement of The Beatles coming to iTunes appears on the Apple website Nov. 16, 2010, in San Anselmo, Calif. Apple has struck a deal with the record label EMI and the Beatles' company Apple Corps to sell digital downloads of the legendary rock band's music on iTunes.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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(CBS) John, Paul, George and Ringo are getting some credit on the Internets for saving the music biz. Before we go crazy with glee, let's look at the figures.

So far in 2011, things are looking up. Music sales increased 1.6 percent. But as the saying goes - and this is paraphrasing - 1.6 percent of squat is still squat.

Pictures: The Beatles
Pictures: Grammy Awards 2011

Jokes aside, sales in the music business have been slumping, in loose terms, for a decade. Music doesn't sell as it used to since the advent of easy digital access. Can you imagine huge, crushing first-week sales on the level of Backstreet Boys' "Black & Blue" or NSYNC's "No Strings Attached" ever again?

The recent sales uptick comes from a rise in digital album and track sales, according to the Nielsen Company. That rise offsets declines in physical album sales (e.g. CDs). Last year, sales of digital had plateaued.

(For all you vinylphiles out there, Nielsen reports sales are up 25.5 percent in the last year for a total of 3.6 million units.)

Nielsen comes right out and credits the increase to The Beatles, stating, "Catalog album sales are up 5.4 percent in 2011, thanks in part to a long-awaited 2010 deal allowing digital distribution of The Beatles' albums for the first time."

Not everyone is buying that argument. Peter Kafka at All Things Digital writes, "I have a hard time believing the 'Love Me Do' bump extended into March and April."

Kafka's reasoning is flawed: "Love Me Do" wouldn't bump anything. It's clearly "Dear Prudence" doing the heavy lifting.

Are you buying more or less music this year than you have in the past, and why? Let us know what you think in the comments.