Mid-Year Report Card 2013: Justin Timberlake, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Lead the Pack

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Posted July 10, 2013 by J Matthew Cobb in News
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The good, the bad and the ugly: Report cards are issued on the music biz in both the US and the UK, plus specifics on the genres

The dog days of summer are finally here. That gives us the opportunity to pour down the stats on this year’s leaders in the music game. Technically speaking, the stats on 2013’s album and singles sales are under performing versus last year’s assessments.

But there might be some light at the end of the tunnel. Streaming is up, illegal downloads are down, Billboard is counting streams to determine hit records and vinyl sales are certainly up.

It might be surprise to some, especially after the New York Times jumped on the “vinyl comeback” bandwagon, but vinyl is making major strides in the world of music economics. Six percent of the first-week sales of Daft Punk‘s Random Access Memories — 19,000 out of 339,000 — were on vinyl, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which measures music sales. College-leaning rock bands are also part of the conversation, where the National sold 7,000 vinyl copies of its latest album, Trouble Will Find Me, and Vampire Weekend fans purchased ten-thousand copies of their 2012 album, Modern Vampires of the City.

But of course, you’re still wondering who’s at the top of the mid-year album/single charts.

According to data coming from Nielsen SoundScan, the top-selling artist of 2013 in albums and in singles happen to actually be the best-selling acts in the realm of R&B/hip-hop – technically speaking. Justin Timberlake‘s The 20/20 Experience has sold over 2 million copies – the only album to do so thus far in 2013. Rap duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis leads the way as the best-selling act with the year’s best single, “Thrift Shop.” With over 5.5 million sold, the hit single is actually performing at the same rate as Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” did this time last year.

Back to the year’s best performing albums: Bruno Mars comes in second place with the December 2012 release of Unorthodox Jukebox, selling close to a million copies. (985,000). And next in line includes Mumford & Sons‘ nine-month-old Babel (884,000 sold in addition to 1.46 million sold by the end of last year), Blake Shelton‘s Based on a True Story . . . (703,000) and Imagine DragonsNight Visions (692,000).

This is what things look like with the general mid-year tally of best-selling albums:

1    Justin Timberlake    The 20/20 Experience    2,037,000
2    Bruno Mars    Unorthodox Jukebox    985,000
3    Mumford & Sons    Babel    884,000
4    Blake Shelton    Based On a True Story    703,000
5    Imagine Dragons    Night Visions    692,000
6    P!nk    The Truth About Love    674,000
7    Macklemore & Ryan Lewis    The Heist    653,000
8    The Lumineers    The Lumineers    649,000
9    Taylor Swift    Red    616,000
10    Daft Punk    Random Access Memories    614,000

P!nk, Mars, Rihanna and Imagine Dragons round out the top five in digital singles. Along with “Thrift Shop,” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis also has a second single to make the mid-year Top 10. The list goes a little something like this:

1    Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz    “Thrift Shop”    5.558,000
2    P!nk featuring Nate Ruess    “Just Give Me a Reason”    3,524,000
3    Bruno Mars    “When I Was Your Man”   3,424,000
4    Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko    “Stay”    3,298,000
5    Imagine Dragons    “Radioactive”   3,246,000
6    Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton    “Can’t Hold Us”    3,129,000
7    Florida Georgia Line    “Cruise”    3,112,000
8    Justin Timberlake featuring Jay-Z    “Suit & Tie”   2,574,000
9    Taylor Swift    “I Knew You Were Trouble”   2,455,000
10    Robin Thicke featuring Pharrell & T.I.    “Blurred Lines”    2,406,000

Overall, sales of digital tracks are down two percent, to 682 million this year, while album sales are down six percent, to 142 million.

But don’t let that bit of news startle you. In the UK, music is booming. Daft Punk and Robin Thicke are both making major noise and are shaking up the the UK Singles chart in historic proportions. According to the Official Charts Company, 2013 is on course to be the biggest year for singles sales in UK history. Daft Punk’s number one single ‘Get Lucky’ featuring Pharrell Williams has sold over a million copies so far, while Robin Thicke‘s ‘Blurred Lines’ – another Williams guested joint – has sold over 828,000 copies. In the UK, purchases of singles are up by 2.5% from this time last year, which set the record for most singles bought. Rounding out the lists in the UK are Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (“Thrift Shop,” 680,000), P!nk (“Give Me a Reason,” 652,000) and Justin Timberlake (“Mirrors,” 632,000).

Getting specific: Rock, R&B  and country

On the rock side, Mumford & Sons are leading the pack of best-selling rock albums with last year’s Babel. Imagine Dragons takes the win for best-selling single with “Radioactive.” So far, they have sold 884,000 and 3.25 million respectively.  In the albums’ world, rock album by the Lumineers’ (self-titled; 649,000) and fun. (Some Nights; 506,000) are trailing close behind. All three albums are last year’s stock. So far, many of the rock albums in 2013 that reached number one spot on the Billboard 200, including Queens of the Stone Age and Black Sabbath, aren’t even featured in the year’s top 10 rock albums. The only new album to be featured on the list is the mixed-genre soundtrack of The Great Gasby (387,000 copies sold) and Fall Out Boy‘s Save Rock and Roll, with 321,000 copies sold so far.

So far, this is the year’s top five best performing singles in rock, according to Billboard’s Rock Digital Songs survey:

1  Imagine Dragons  Radioactive 3,246,000
2  The Lumineers  Ho Hey 1,971,000
3  Fall Out Boy  My Songs Known What You Did In the Dark (Light ‘Em Up) 1,967,000
4  Mumford & Sons  I Will Wait 1,342,000
5 fun.  Carry On 1,337,000

Blake Shelton and Florida Georgia Line are leading the pack in the world of country. Shelton’s reasons seem as if they hinge to his involvement with NBC’s The Voice, but there’s more to that.  His singles, “Sure Be Cool If You Did” and “Boys ‘Round Here” spent time at number 1 on the Nielsen BDS-driven Country Airplay chart during the first half of the year, and they appear at Nos. 3 and No. 5 on the year-to-date top 10 Country Digital Songs list. Shelton’s album, Based on a True Story…, has sold 703,000 copies so far. Florida Georgia Line’s single, “Cruise,” which sports a guest spot from rapper Nelly, sold 3.1 million copies so far.

Taylor Swift‘s Red, a 2012 release which has already reached platinum status, has sold 616,000 copies in 2013 so far, becoming the year’s second best performed album.

Below is the how things are shaking up with the mid-year album sales in country:

1 Blake Shelton Based on a True Story  703,000
2 Taylor Swift Red  616,000
3 Florida Georgia Line Here’s to the Good Times  610,000
4 Luke Bryan Spring Break…Here to Party  452,000
5 Tim McGraw Two Lanes of Freedom  373,000

No surprise on the R&B charts. JT and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, the year’s best acts in albums and singles, are holding down the fort in the world of R&B and hip-hop. Despite giving away one million copies of the album via select Samsung photo and tablet users, Jay-Z‘s Magna Carta Holy Grail is expected to sell near 350-400,000 in its first week. That number would have replaced Ye‘s Yeezus, but the data below comes from mid-year stats.

1 Justin Timberlake The 20/20 Experience 2,037,000
2 Macklemore & Ryan Lewis The Heist 653,000
3 Lil Wayne I Am Not a Human Being II 503,000
4 Rihanna Unapologetic 493,000
5 Kanye West Yeezus 392,000

On the flip side of optimism, Jonathan Blum of The Digital Spy wrote a very scathing article about the gloom and doom of today’s pop star, citing that Justin Timberlake is just doing enough to get by – that’s when you compare his recent success with The 20/20 Experience with the music industry of 1993. Blum compared Whitney’s The Bodyguard soundtrack, which sold one million copies in its first week and eventually moved 28 to 45 million copies worldwide. When you look at those figures, you’re bound to believe that JT is just a white dwarf in the cosmos of record sales. Still, with the music industry still rebounding from excessive piracy and now dealing with the streaming universe of YouTube and Spotify, which give pennies to artists for every stream, two million copies sold in the year 2013 doesn’t sound so bad.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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