Nielsen SoundScan Issues Report Card on Music Industry for 2012

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Posted January 5, 2013 by J Matthew Cobb in News
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Nielsen SoundScan unveils the status reports on 2012’s music sales. There’s actually a bit of good news to report.

The numbers are in.

And there’s a bit of good news to report. Despite the declining sales of physical CDs over the last couple of years and a 13 percent drop in 2012 compared to 2011, overall music purchases are actually up.

“Overall music purchases surpassed 1.65 billion units in 2012, up 3.1% vs. the previous record high set in 2011, driven by digital music sales, which continue be a key growth element within the market,” said Nielsen SVP/Client Development David Bakula. “Digital Album sales are up 14.1% and Digital Track sales are up 5.1%, but despite being down 12.8%, physical is still the dominant album format.”

“The big artist stories of the year are Adele and Taylor Swift,” Bakula added. “Adele’s album, 21, is the first album ever to be the top seller of the year for two consecutive years, and Swift’s Red has sold more than 3.1 million copies in only 10 weeks, debuting with the highest weekly sales of any title since 2002.”

The vinyl format also continues to stun analysts. Vinyl sales were up 19 percent, selling 4.6 million copies in 2012. In 2011, 3.9 million was sold. Of course the bulk of those sales were made at independent stores (67%).

Of the major labels, Universal Music Group (UMG) posted the highest number of units sold, with a 3 percent rise compared to 2011. The other labels in the top 5 include: SONY  (30.25%, 29.29% in 2011); WMG (19.15%, 19.13% in 2011); EMI (6.78%, 9.62% in 2011) and OTHERS  (11.42%,  12.11% in 2011).

Nielsen SoundScan also revealed the top ten best-selling albums of 2012. As no surprise, Adele and Taylor Swift took the top posts, while One Direction and Justin Bieber showed off their teen pop moxie with their latest releases. Albums by Maroon 5, Mumford & Sons, Nicki Minaj, Luke Bryan and fun. also managed to break into the top ten.

The Top Ten best-selling albums are as follows:

1. 21/ADELE – 5,256,000
2. Red/TAYLOR SWIFT – 3,892,000
3. Up All Night/ONE DIRECTION – 2,334,000
4. Believe/JUSTIN BIEBER – 2,142,000
5. Some Nights/FUN. – 1,923,000
6. Overexposed/MAROON 5
7. Pink Friday…Roman Reloaded/NICKI MINAJ – 1,657,000
8. Babel/MUMFORD & SONS – 1,605,000
9. Tailgates & Tanlines/LUKE BRYAN – 1,600,000
10. Take Me Home/ONE DIRECTION – 1,565,000

As for the scorecard in the individual genres, the crowds in the R&B, hip-hop and Christian-religious sectors may need to panic. Even jazz experienced a major slump in sales (dropping 26 percent from 2011). R&B dropped 10 percent points, hip-hop dropped 11 percent, EDM dropped 12 percent and Christian/gospel content fell 3 percent points. The brightest spot in the genre field was country. Country posted major gains, up 4 percent compared to 2011. Rock wasn’t far behind getting a major bump in sales of 1.4 percent, partially due to major box sets, remastered catalog albums from Pink Floyd and the Beatles and a digital war chest). Classical music also grew a few percentages. These were estimates reported based solely on digital albums, and not reporting physical copies.

In the world of radio airplay, Katy Perry led the way as being the most played artist of 2012, earning 1.4 million spins. And sorry PSY, Carly Rae Jepsen‘s summer smash “Call Me Maybe” was the most streamed song and music video on the Internet (119.8 million plays, actually).

To view all the stats on 2012’s music sales, check out the press release at MSNBC.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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