Nielsen/Soundscan has released its report on music sales for the first six months of 2012, and while album sales were very slightly down, overall music sales grew by four percent. Overall music sales (albums, singles, videos and digital tracks combined) grew from 820.5 million in the first half of 2011 to 853.2 million in the first half of 2012. Overall album sales, which includes "track equivalent albums" (10 digital tracks = one album), fell by 0.6 percent from 221.3 million a year ago to 220.3 million in the first six months of this year.
Digital album sales grew by 13.8 percent to 57.2 million in the first half of 2012, with digital track sales up by 5.6 percent to 698 million. Vinyl sales were up 14.2 percent, with 2.2 million records sold in the first half of the year. Physical CD sales accounted for 61 percent of all album sales, down from 66 percent a year ago.
Sony Music kept its position with the largest market share of total albums sold, with 30.41 percent, followed by Universal Music Group with 28.98 percent. Warner Music Group came in third with 18.26 percent of total album sales, followed by EMI with 10.08 percent. All other labels added up to the remaining 12.26 percent.
Breaking the data down by genre, Country had the biggest sales gain in the first six months of 2012, with a 5.6 percent increase to 19.4 million albums sold. Metal saw a 3.2 percent gain, with Jazz up 2.6 percent and Rock up by 0.2 percent to 49.6 million sold. Alternative fell by six percent, with 25.1 million albums sold in the first half of the year. Latin had the biggest drop, with a 20 percent decline in sales, followed by an 18.1 percent decline for Classical music. Electronic/Dance music was down 6.5 percent and R&B saw a 7.7 percent drop off.
As reported Thursday, Adele's 21 and Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" (featuring Kimbra) are the year's biggest selling album and digital song in the U.S., respectively. 21 has moved 3.69 million copies this year, and "Somebody" has sold 5.50 million downloads. Through July 1, 21 is the only album that has sold more that 1 million copies this year. The next biggest selling album is Lionel Richie's Tuskegee, which has moved 912,000, followed by One Direction's Up All Night, with 899,000. Meanwhile, "Somebody That I Used to Know" is one of two titles that have shifted 5 million digital copies in 2012. fun.'s "We Are Young" (featuring Janelle Monae) is the other, with 5.09 million.
According to BDS data, Adele's "Set Fire To The Rain" was the most-spun song in the first half of the year, with 387,000 plays, followed by Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger," "We Are Young," "Somebody That I Used To Know" and Rihanna's "We Found Love." Looking at streaming music plays, from Nielsen's streaming sources, "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen was the most-streamed song in the first half of 2012, followed by Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend" and "Mirror" by Li Wayne f/Bruno Mars.
"Sales trended well in the first half of the year," said David Bakula, SVP Client Development, Nielsen. "While retail sales continue to face challenges related to broader market trends, digital sales gains are expected to achieve another record-breaking year. The strength in other monetized digital formats, including music streaming services, is equally encouraging."