Nielsen SoundScan’s just-released report on calendar year sales and airplay data for 2011 offered an almighty New Year’s gift for the entertainment industry: It was the first year of positive album sales growth since 2004. Overall U.S. sales ticked up 1.4% to 330.6 million units, from 2010’s 326.2M.
Digital album sales rallied 19.5% to 103.1M units; while physical CD sales were down 5.7% to 223.5M (still a robust improvement over the 18-20% decline over each of the past four years).
On the digital front, for the first time, download sales surpassed physical sales, accounting for 50.3% of all music purchases in 2011. Digital track sales grew by nearly 100M units over 2010 to 1.27 billion, up 8.5%.
And more good news: Thanks to the digital frontier, total music sales in 2011—including albums & tracks—rose 6.9% over last year to 1.6 billion. By genre, alternative triumphed among albums, followed by Christian/gospel, classical, country, jazz, Latin, metal, new age and R&B.
Not surprisingly, a majority of the remaining 2011 industry superlatives rest squarely on the heavenly shoulders of Adele. The British chanteuse’s sophomore 21 was the No. 1 album in 2011, selling 5.82M copies (more than double No. 2 album Christmas from Michael Buble, at 2.5M); while it is also the best-selling digital album of all time, at 1.8M units.
And there’s so much more: In its 44-week run on the chart, 21 never left the top 10 and in fact, this week spends a 14th non consecutive frame atop the Billboard 200. It's the first album since 2005 to achieve 30 weeks of 100,000-plus sales, and the first since 2004 to sell more than 5M copies in a calendar year. 21 also reaped a total of 12.8M track downloads, while it was the year’s top-selling physical album of 2011, with 4M units.
Meanwhile, Adele’s "Rolling in the Deep" was the No. 1 single of the year, topping the Hot 100 for seven weeks and scanning 5.2M downloads. Among its other coups: "Deep" was the year's most-played song at radio, and the best-selling digital song and digital track of 2011.
Overall, Adele is the first artist ever to grab the titles of best-selling artist, album and digital song in the same year. One more: Adele’s debut 19, was the top-selling digital catalog album of the year, with sales of 282,000 units.
Rounding out the top 5 albums of 2011: fourth-quarter entry Christmas from Michael Buble (2.5M), Lady Gaga’s Born This Way (2.1M), Lil’ Wayne’s Tha Carter (1.9M) and My Kinda Party from Jason Aldean (1.6M).
The top five singles, following Adele’s "Deep": "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO, Katy Perry’s "E.T.," "Moves Like Jagger" from Maroon 5 feat. Christina Aguilera and "Give Me Everything" by Pitbull feat. Ne-Yo & Afrojack.
And a few more tidbits:
* Katy Perry was the most-played artist on all radio formats last year, barely edging out Bruno Mars.
* Lady Gaga was the most-streamed artist in 2011.
* Garth Brooks remains the best-selling artist in the Nielsen Soundscan era, with 68.5M albums sold overall. Eww.
* Rihanna is the best-selling digital artist of all time.
* Metallica's 1991 eponymous album remains the best-selling in the Nielsen Soundscan era.
* Vinyl saw a surprising resurgence in 2011, with sales reaching 3.9M, up 36% from 2010. Overall, vinyl accounted for 1.2% of all album sales, with 67% purchases at indie music stores. Three out of four were rock. *