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For the first time since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking music sales in 1991, the same album finishes as the United States’ best-seller for a second year. Adele‘s 21 triumphed in 2011 and ruled again in 2012.
The XL/Columbia Records effort finishes 2012 with 4.41 million sold. In 2011, the set moved 5.82 million. Earlier in 2012, it became the 21st album in the SoundScan era to sell 10 million copies.
The 2012 sales tracking year began on Jan. 2, 2012 ended on Dec. 30.
21 debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart way back on the list dated March, 21, 2011. It has yet to leave the tally and has never been absent from the weekly top 40.
The year’s second-biggest selling album is Taylor Swift‘s Red, with 3.11 million. It’s the fourth time Swift has had an album ranked among a year’s top three sellers. In 2010, Speak Now was the year’s No. 3 set (2.99 million), in 2009 Fearless was No. 1 (3.22 million) and in 2008, Fearless was No. 3 (2.11 million).
One Direction’s breakthrough debut album Up All Night is 2012’s third-biggest set with 1.62 million sold. The vocal quintet’s second album, Take Me Home, is the year’s No. 5 seller with 1.34 million. Both titles were released in 2012. It’s the first time since SoundScan started tracking sales in 1991 that an act has had two of the year’s top five sellers.
A couple acts have come close to the feat previously: Taylor Swift had the Nos. 3 and 6 albums of 2008 with Fearless and her self-titled debut, while Garth Brooks had the Nos. 2 and 6 sets of 1992 with Ropin’ the Wind and The Chase, respectively. (In 1992, Brooks also had the No. 7 title with No Fences. He remains the only act to place three albums among any year’s top 10 best sellers.)
Mumford & Sons’ Babel is 2012’s fourth-biggest album, with 1.46 million — thus ranking as the year’s biggest rock set. It’s the only rock effort in the top 10 this year. It’s familiar territory for the quartet, as they claimed the No. 6 album of 2011 with Sigh No More (1.42 million) and was the only rock title in that year’s top 10.
For the first time since 2008, no Christmas albums rank among the year’s top 10 sellers. 2012’s biggest holiday set was Rod Stewart‘s Merry Christmas, Baby, which finishes at No. 15 with 858,000 sold. In 2011, two Christmas releases were among the top 10: Michael Buble‘s Christmas (No. 2 with 2.45 million) and Justin Bieber‘s Under the Mistletoe (No. 8 with 1.25 million).
Speaking of Bieber, his latest album, Believe, claims the No. 6 slot on the the 2012 year-end countdown. It moved 1.34 million last year. This is the third straight year the singer has made a year-end top 10 appearance. In 2011 his Under the Mistletoe ranked at No. 8 while in 2010, My World 2.0 was No. 4 with 2.32 million.
The rest of 2012’s top 10 best selling albums are all country efforts. Carrie Underwood‘s Blown Away is No. 7 (1.20 million), Luke Bryan‘s Tailgates & Tanlines is No. 8 (1.10 million), Lionel Richie‘s Tuskegee is No. 9 (1.07 million) and Jason Aldean‘s Night Train is No. 10 (1.02 million).
Country albums account for five of the year’s top 10 sellers (Nos. 2 and 7-10) — a record share of the top 10 for the genre in SoundScan history. Previously, country sets claimed no more than four of the top 10 (in 2002 and 1992).
During the 52 weeks that ended Dec. 30, overall album sales in the U.S. fell by 4 percent to 315.96 million from 330.57 million in 2011. Physical CD sales were down 13 percent in 2012 while digital album downloads gained by 14 percent to a record 117.68 million. 37 percent of all albums sold in 2012 were downloads — up from 31 percent in 2011. The top-selling digital album of 2012 was Adele’s 21, with 1.04 million. 21 was also 2011’s biggest-selling digital album, with 1.8 million. It was the only album to shift a million downloads in either year (or any year, for that matter).
VINYL BOOM CONTINUES: For the fifth consecutive year, more vinyl albums were sold than in any other year since SoundScan launched in 1991. In 2012, 4.55 million vinyl LPs were sold — up 18 percent compared to 2011’s then-record haul of 3.87 million. 67 percent of all vinyl albums sold in 2012 were purchased at an independent music store (the same share as in 2011). 76 percent of the vinyl LPs sold in 2012 were a rock album.
The year’s top selling LP was Jack White‘s Blunderbuss with 34,000 vinyl sets sold. In second place was the Beatles’ Abbey Road with 30,000. While overall LP sales were up, the top seller of 2012 sold less than the top seller of 2011. Last year, the biggest vinyl album was Abbey Road with 41,000.
DIGITAL DOMINATION: Moving on to digital song sales, 2012 was a banner year for song downloads. A record 1.336 billion tracks were sold last year, up 5 percent compared to the then-record total moved in 2011 (1.271 billion).
Gotye‘s “Somebody That I Used to Know” (featuring Kimbra) is 2012’s top selling digital song, with 6.80 million sold while Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” finishes in second place with 6.47 million.
Fun.’s “We Are Young” (featuring Janelle Monae) is in third with 5.95 million.
Those three songs each sold more than any other song has sold in a previous calendar year. In 2011, Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” broke the record for the biggest-selling song of a year, moving 5.81 million. It and LMFAO‘s “Party Rock Anthem” (5.47 million) were the first two songs to surpass 5 million sales in a calendar year.
Fun. has two of 2012’s top 10 best-selling tunes — “We Are Young” joins “Some Nights” (No. 7 with 3.84 million). Maroon 5 also has a pair of songs in the top 10 with “Payphone” (featuring Wiz Khalifa) at No. 4 with 4.76 million and “One More Night” at No. 10 with 3.46 million.
As for the rest of the year’s top 10 selling songs: Nicki Minaj‘s “Starships” is No. 5 (3.98 million), One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” is No. 6 (3.89 million), Kelly Clarkson‘s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” is No. 8 (3.82 million) and PSY‘s “Gangnam Style” is No. 9 (3.59 million).
A total of 108 songs sold more than 1 million downloads in 2012 — down slightly from the 112 that did it in 2011. 41 moved 2 million in 2012 vs. 38 in 2011.
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