by Ray McDonald
If you listened to music in 2012, you had a lot of company. Nielsen SoundScan and Nielsen BDS, the leading data information systems in the United States entertainment industry, just came out with their year-end sales figures. According to Nielsen’s David Bakula, “Overall music purchases surpassed 1.65 billion units in 2012, up 3.1 percent versus the previous record high set in 2011.” Digital music is the primary sales driver, with album downloads up 14.1 percent, and digital tracks rising by 5.1 percent. For those among us who prefer something we can actually hold, well, the news is mixed: despite a drop of 12.8 percent, physical product such as compact discs is still the dominant album format.
So, who are the artists driving all these music sales? For the second consecutive year, Adele had the best-selling album in the United States. Her blockbuster sophomore set “21” finished 2012 with 4.41 million sales, after moving 5.82 million copies in 2011. It’s the first champion to repeat since SoundScan began tracking music sales in 1991. Last year, “21” also became the 21st album of the SoundScan era to top 10 million sales.
When Adele wasn’t setting fire to the charts, Taylor Swift took control. With songs riffing on her soap opera love life, Swift’s fourth album “Red” sold more than 3.1 million copies in its first 10 weeks. This was the fourth time Taylor placed an album among the top three sellers of the year.
British boy band One Direction had both the 3rd and 5th best-selling albums of the year. Their debut album “Up All Night” sold 1.62 million copies and their second effort “Take Me Home,” sold 1.34 million copies. Folk-rockers Mumford & Sons finished fourth, as “Babel” sold 1.46 million copies. Interestingly, four of the year’s top five U-S album acts are British – a phenomenon I first addressed here.
Like your music in smaller doses? Here again, you’re in good company. Consumers downloaded a record 1.33 billion songs last year, up five percent from 2011’s 1.27 billion. Reigning atop the list is Australian singer-songwriter Gotye, who recorded his eccentric smash “Somebody That I Used To Know” in his parents’ house. It’s sold 6.8 million downloads. Helping move the merchandise was his eye-catching video, complete with an appearance from fellow vocalist Kimbra. To date, it’s attracted 363 million views on YouTube.
Hot on Gotye’s heels was Carly Rae Jepsen, a former “Canadian Idol” contestant who moved 6.47 million copies of “Call Me Maybe.”
Whether we watched videos on our mobile phones or snuggled up with a classic CD, we brought music into our lives on a grand scale in 2012…here’s hoping the new year brings even more highlights.