So, I’m sure you’ve all seen various news articles saying things about the state of the music industry in the previous year. Here are a few irrefutable facts as well as a listing of the top selling albums of the year.
Music sales are up vs. the previous year for the first time in seven years. Despite a so-so fourth quarter, sales of prerecorded full-length albums were up 1% over 2010. Does this mean the CD is on the rebound? Not exactly? The rebound was largely due to increased digital sales. Sales of physical CDs were down 5% in 2011 vs. 2010. However, after years of double-digit declines, even this is something to celebrate.
Before people continue pointing out the CD’s death, let’s just state for the record-out of nearly 300 million full-length albums purchased in 2011, over 2/3 of them were on one of those shiny little plastic discs. While digital albums continue to grow-gaining a few percentage points each year-there’s still a VERY large market for CDs. No it’s not the same as the 700 or so million people who bought albums in 2001, but it’s not a completely dead market.
How much of this gain can be attributed to the resurgence in vinyl? Not much, to be honest. While the format itself was up nearly 40% year to year, the fact remains that vinyl remains very much a specialty format. Only about 3 million pieces of vinyl were sold this year, meaning that of all albums sold in 2011, vinyl records make up about 1% of the total market.
In terms of individual achievement, 2011 was all about Adele. The British soul singer had the year’s biggest selling single (“Rolling In The Deep”) as well as the best selling album, by far. With 5.8 million albums sold, 21 moved more units than any one album in a calendar year since Usher’s Confessions back in 2004. She sold more than double the amount the year’s #2 album (Michael Buble’s Christmas) sold. Not bad for an artist who began the year potentially facing the sophomore jinx.
Adele wasn’t the only big winner of 2011. Aside from Buble’s massive holiday success (and you could say that at least there was a precedence for that), this year witnessed the continuation of Bieber-mania (Justin had three of the year’s twenty-four top selling albums), the comeback of Chris Brown (with over 800,000 units sold of F.A.M.E.), and the continued triumphs of female pop stars like Lady GaGa, Beyonce and Katy Perry.
On the other side of the coin, two genres that suffered were rock and R&B. Only two rock albums finished among the year’s top 20 sellers, and Beyonce was the only R&B singer to place as highly. You could arguably put Adele or Rihanna on that list, but Adele, while very much a soul singer, isn’t generally classified as R&B. And Rihanna’s music generally skews much more pop than R&B, although she often gets lumped into the latter category on account of her skin color. But that’s kinda like calling Seal an R&B singer, innit? He isn’t.
13 albums sold more than a million copies in 2011 (the same amount as in 2010), and 48 albums sold over half a million copies. Four additional albums stand at the 490,000-area. I don’t have last year’s numbers to compare that, but about twice as many albums crossed that threshold back in ’05.
Some of this year’s biggest disappointments came from the likes of Susan Boyle (478K sold), The Beastie Boys (337K sold after an extended hiatus), Avril Lavigne (314K), and the comeback album from blink-182, which was only able to muster up about 276K in sales.
Here’s a list of this year’s 50 best selling albums. As mentioned, with the exception of the bottom two (which are both about 1,000 copies away) all of these albums moved over half a million units in the calendar year.
(we’ve also linked to our reviews of these albums, where applicable…c’mon, you know you wanna read ’em…)
1) 21 | Adele
2) Christmas | Michael Buble
3) Born This Way | Lady GaGa
4) Tha Carter IV | Lil Wayne
5) My Kinda Party | Jason Aldean
6) Sigh No More | Mumford & Sons
7) Take Care | Drake
8) Under The Mistletoe | Justin Bieber
9) Watch The Throne | Kanye West & Jay-Z
10) Own The Night | Lady Antebellum
11) 4 | Beyonce
12) Teenage Dream | Katy Perry
13) Mylo Xyloto | Coldplay
14) Doo-Wops & Hooligans | Bruno Mars
15) Speak Now | Taylor Swift
16) Pink Friday | Nicki Minaj
17) 19 | Adele
18) Clear As Day | Scotty McCreery
19) Loud | Rihanna
20) Never Say Never: The Remixes | Justin Bieber
21) F.A.M.E. | Chris Brown
22) You Get What You Give | Zac Brown Band
23) Recovery | Eminem
24) My World 2.0 | Justin Bieber
25) Femme Fatale | Britney Spears
26) The Band Perry | The Band Perry
27) Duets II | Tony Bennett
28) Now That’s What I Call Music 37 | Various Artists
29) Need You Now | Lady Antebellum
30) Hell: The Sequel | Bad Meets Evil (Eminem & Royce Da 5’9″)
31) Wasting Light | Foo Fighters
32) Now That’s What I Call Music 38 | Various Artists
33) Torches | Foster The People
34) Greatest Hits…So Far! | P!nk
35) Tailgates & Tanlines | Luke Bryan
36) Rolling Papers | Wiz Khalifa
37) Dream With Me | Jackie Evancho
38) This Is Country Music | Brad Paisley
39) Here & Now | Nickelback
40) Now That’s What I Call Music 40 | Various Artists
41) Now That’s What I Call Music 39 | Various Artists
42) Chief | Eric Church
43) When The Sun Goes Down | Selena Gomez & The Scene
44) Hands All Over | Maroon 5
45) Sorry For Party Rocking | LMFAO
46) Lungs | Florence + The Machine
47) Talk That Talk | Rihanna
48) Red River Blue | Blake Shelton
49) Nothing Like This | Rascal Flatts
50) Cole World: The Sideline Story | J. Cole