Overall music sales up, albums down

Mid-year SoundScan report also shows a bump in digital sales

While digital music sales continued to climb during the first six months of 2012, total album sales dipped again after a brief rise, according to a midyear report from Nielsen SoundScan.

And there weren’t many new entries at the top of the charts: Top sellers hewed closely to the tried-and-true, with five pre-2012 releases and Lionel Richie’s back-catalog-revisiting “Tuskegee” all placing in the top 10 of the year to date.

Overall music sales (including albums and tracks) were up 4% for the year-to-year period.

Digital album sales rose 13.8% (to 57.2 million units from 50.3 million units in the same period during 2011), while digital track sales gained 5.6% (to 698 million units from 660.8 million during the first six months of last year).

However, total album sales — which saw an uptick of 1.3% last year, marking the first increase since 2004 — lost 3.2% through the end of June, with 150.5 million sold (vs. 155.5 million last year). Overall album sales, including so-called “track equivalent albums” (with 10 tracks equalling one album), declined 0.6%, to 220.3 million from 221.3 million at midpoint last year.

CD sales represented 61% of all album sales through midyear, down from 66% at this time last year. Digital album sales accounted for 38% of all album purchases during the first half of the year.

In perhaps the most telling bit of data released, 2012’s bestselling album to date is a collection issued in February 2011: Adele’s multiple Grammy winner “21,” which moved 3.66 million of its nearly 9.5 million sold so far in the first six months of this year.

To date, no 2012 release has sold in excess of 1 million copies. Pop-R&B star Richie’s collaborative country set “Tuskegee” shifted 912,000, while U.K. boy band One Direction’s “Up All Night” moved 899,000. In the wake of Whitney Houston’s sudden death in February, her “Greatest Hits” sold 818,000 units, good for No. 4 on the bestseller list.

Two digital songs sold in excess of 5 million units: Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” (5.5 million) and fun.’s “We Are Young.” The current No. 1 single, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” placed third with 4 million sold.

In label market share, Sony Music Entertainment led in total album sales (30.4%), current album sales (31.4%) and physical album sales (32.8%), while Universal Music Group was tops in digital album sales (27.7%) and digital track sales (32.6%).

Vinyl continued its growth, gaining 14.2%; 2.2 million LPs were sold in the first six months of the year, vs. 1.9 million during the same period last year. Jack White’s “Blunderbuss” (18,000 units) and the Black Keys’ “El Camino” (18,000 units) outsold the perennial champion platter, the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” (16,000 units).

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