Apple has become the leading music retailer in the US, overtaking Wal-Mart for the first time.

Citing recent figures from NPD MusicWatch, ArsTechnica reveals Apple to have significantly surpassed Wal-Mart, taking 19 per cent of January's music retail sales. That compares to Wal-Mart's 15 per cent, BestBuy's 13 per cent and Amazon's 9 per cent of retail sales.

The report also reveals one-in-four music sales in the US are now in the form of paid downloads: 70.9 per cent of music sold is in physical formats while 29.1 per cent is digital.

RealNetwork's Rhapsody service remains in among the top ten music distributors, but with just one per cent of sales.

The news was announced in an email despatched among some Apple employees yesterday afternoon, the report claims.

"The NPD Group has been tracking a "sharp increase" in digital downloads over the past several months as physical sales dry up. According to NPD's research, 48 per cent of US teens didn't buy a single CD in 2007, compared to 38 per cent in 2006," the report explains.