Adele, Katy Perry help music sales go up for the first time in seven years


Image Credit: Lauren Dukoff

At the halfway point of 2011, it shouldn’t be surprising that Adele’s 21 is the top-selling album of the year. But did you know that thanks to that big boost, alongwith solid entries by the likes of Lady Gaga and Mumford & Sons, album sales are actually up for the first time in seven years?

According to the mid-year report published by Nielsen SoundScan, a few more than 155 million albums have moved in the first six months of 2011, compared to the just under 154 million that sold during the same time in 2010. That’s a whopping one percent gain!

It’s always good to be up, but considering album sales have been in total freefall for years (at this time last year, sales were down 11 percent compared to the same time in 2009), there was really no place to go but up.

There are some real reasons to celebrate, though. In the same week that Eminem’s Recovery became the first album to sell over a million digital copies, overall digital track sales are up 11 percent over last year. The first part of 2011 also marks the first time that a song has sold over four million digital copies in six months, and it actually happened twice (if you guessed Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and Katy Perry’s “E.T.,” give yourself a pat on the back for not being in a coma this year).

There are other signs of life too, as catalog sales are up seven percent (meaning that people are just as interested in old music as they are in new stuff) and vinyl sales are up a whopping 41 percent (which means that people also want to hear music on old technology). That vinyl figure is a little inflated, considering it only represents a hair under two million total big black discs sold, but the music industry will take what they can get.

Finally, anybody who doesn’t particularly care for Lady Gaga’s brand of pop revivalism (we know you’re out there, lurking in the comments section) can feel good that album sales would still be up a hair even if Born This Way hadn’t had its massive million-selling opening week.

For those keeping score at home, the 10 biggest selling albums of 2011 so far are Adele’s 21, Gaga’s Born This Way, Mumford & Sons’ Sigh No More, Jason Aldean’s My Kinda Party, Bruno Mars’ Doo-Wops & Hooligans, Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never: The Remixes, Chris Brown’s F.A.M.E., Now 37, Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday and Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream.

The top-selling singles are Katy Perry’s “E.T.,” Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” Cee-Lo Green’s “F— You,” Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” Rihanna’s “S&M,” Jennifer Lopez’s “On the Floor,” the Black Eyed Peas’ “Just Can’t Get Enough,” Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now,” Bruno Mars’ “Grenade” and Perry’s “Firework.”

What do you think of the music sales progress report? Does the quality of the music match the robustness of the sales? Let us know what you think of the year so far in the comments below.

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Comments (75 total) Add your comment
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  • KC

    Shame on anyone who bought Katy Perry.

    • Jenckles

      Katy Perry’s E.T. is truly one of the most idiotic songs I’ve heard recently. Kanye’s rap part was equally, if not more, moronic than the actual lyrics. “I know a bar out in mars, where they drive spaceships instead of cars”…kill me now!

      • Chris

        I really don’t see how the pop lyrics of today are any more or less banal than those of the past.

        Compare that lyric to:

        “And out comes a man from Mars
        And you try to run but he’s got a gun
        And he shoots you dead and he eats your head
        And then you’re in the man from Mars
        You go out at night, eatin’ cars
        You eat Cadillacs, Lincolns too
        Mercuries and Subarus
        And you don’t stop, you keep on eatin’ cars
        Then, when there’s no more cars
        You go out at night and eat up bars where the people meet” … “Rapture” by Blondie

      • commentor

        Rapture is a classic, and groundbreaking song. Silly rap? Yes. Will Katy Perry’s songs be considered classics? Probably not.

      • CB

        That’s right.

        “E.T.” and “Rapture”. When I think of one, I immediately think of the other.

      • Support Adele

        Lady Gaga..quality? Never!

        Just hype, noise and half-baked ideas to make her relevant while she is not.

      • Fed Up forget to mention Gaga the 99cents album sales.


      • True Blue

        @ commentor:

        Way to completely miss Chris’s point.

      • PN

        I didn’t like ET when I first heard Katy Perry’s album last summer. It kind of dragged the album down when I heard the CD in its entirety, just not as strong as the other songs in the album sequence. But it grew on me after the 7th or 8th listen when I heard it on the radio. Katy can have some catchy hooks and this song has it! But please make any of the underrated Greg Wells produced songs some singles like Not Like the Movies–don’t milk on the Dr. Luke or Max Martin helmed songs so much!

      • LOL

        I love Blondie and the song “Rapture” sucks. The KP album is actually quite good—at least the singles are.

    • Fischer

      I know everyone likes to take a swipe at Gaga, and they do have a point, but you guys must not forget that even without the 99cents sale, Gaga would still have sold around 700K-800K in one week. So yes, you have a point at the 99cent sale, but don’t forget that even without she would still have had the highest 1 week sale of the year.
      Also, I’m surprised by Beyonce’s recent sales. Album sales weren’t bad, but weak considering sales for this year went up. Add that with her not-so-successful singles and you begin to question what went wrong. Maybe her reign as Queen is over? Perhaps so, but time will tell.

      • Christine

        I agree with your points about Beyonce. Everything she does is overdone – those outfits her mom creates, the oversinging everything, the “epic” stage performances she tries to create. In interviews she’s so PC it’s nuts – all of her answers sound like pageant princess, so rehearsed (“I still can’t believe it!”.. “This journey.. it made me learn so much about myself..” BLAH, blah blah). In a way it makes everything a wash, and nothing she does makes you FEEL anything. Whereas if Adele raises her eyebrow or changes a rhythm, I would notice.

      • CB

        “Born This Way” is already out of the Top 10 of the Billboard 200.

        So Beyonce is not the only artist having some chart trouble. Lady Gaga isn’t exactly burning up the charts either.

      • Godney



      • Hope she flops soon

        I dont care about Gaga substance. Tired of her music already.

    • Jonathan

      I bought her album and I love it. It fits well in my iTunes with Adele’s ’21’ and Mumford & Sons.

    • Flop This Way

      Lady Gaga…

      F – L – O – P F – L – O – P F – L – O – P F – L – O – P
      F – L – O – P F – L – O – P F – L – O – P F – L – O – P
      F – L – O – P F – L – O – P F – L – O – P F – L – O – P
      F – L – O – P F – L – O – P F – L – O – P F – L – O – P

      F – L – O – P F – L – O – P F – L – O – P F – L – O – P
      F – L – O – P F – L – O – P F – L – O – P F – L – O – P
      F – L – O – P F – L – O – P F – L – O – P F – L – O – P
      F – L – O – P F – L – O – P F – L – O – P F – L – O – P

    • me

      Well, of course Adele and Katy Perry have increased sales. After buying the Katy Perry CD, horrified fans had to go out and buy Adele to try and erase the horror.

    • Tiva

      But they’re catchy and sweet like candy. No harm. I don’t buy music today so I’ll be sure to listen to it ten years from now.

  • LOL

    Most of this stuff stinks, but it’s a good sign that overall sales are up.

    • Lee

      The overall sales are up ONLY 1 million! Big deal. That’s pretty pathetic. But I am glad to see a return of R&B. Hurray for Adele & Bruno!!

    • SaraS

      Can’t believe J-Lo’s single is in the top 10. Huh.

      • Suncatcher

        TOTALLY agree with your, “Huh?”
        Her single is noting but forgettable fluff.

  • glenn

    Catalog sales are up seven percent because of the quality of new music being released.

    • Lee Harvey

      The vast majority of discs that I buy are older titles.

      • Lee

        Is that because today’s music stinks?

      • Zoe

        Yes. Music is horrible. Adele, Cee Lo Green and Mumford & Sons are the only semi-mainstream, new, quality music I downloaded this year that I fully enjoy.

        Katy Perry’s album was from last year but I actually like it, even though the singles she’s released so far are the mediocre & TGIF? That’s the one song I deleted. Her original E.T without Kanye is so so so much better too. I’m also one of the few that enjoys Beyonce’s new album, it’s different and not like all the other s#!+ out there. And I usually adore Lady Gaga, but her new album is horrible, good to dance to but not much else. She looks like she doesn’t know what else to do anymore.

        The pop world is just horrible and the alternative scene has it’s good stuff but it’s not talked about enough.

        I think people are finally wanting good music but people are still too stupid to fully recognize it.

      • Tiva

        Oh, thank you old people for your insight into great music. The Archies anyone?

  • Keith

    I’ll take it!!

  • Anda

    To me this says, “I’ll gladly buy quality music (Adele) or cheap music (Gaga 99 cent sale) but I’m not going to pay for garbage.”

    • Aprilcot26

      This, 110%. Prior to this year, the last time I bought an album was 2006. This year, I’ve already bought three (Adele and Mumford & Sons).

      • LMFAO

        I hope Adele gives up the cigs and tries a salad so she’ll be around to make more good albums.

  • Pittner

    I think music sounds best on vinyl but I just hate having to flip the record over after a few songs. As for the best selling albums, I like Adele and Mumford and Sons but the rest I can do without. I would have thought the Foo Fighters album would have been in the top 10.

  • Daniel

    Gaga…a SOLID entry??!! 99cents sure buys a lot of boasting.

    • MC

      Even without the 99 cent sale, she would have sold over 660k at normal price, still giving her the biggest debut week of the year, so yes, a solid entry indeed.

      • SaraS

        And many of those who purchased her album on Amazon would’ve bought it regular price (like me).

      • Daniel


        Your missing the WHOLE point as to why this Amazon stunt has alienated people. Great if Gaga sold over 600,000 copies at average retail price…but to shill it out for 99 CENTS is just a blatant attempt to crow about its sales position the following week. This is in no way just to save a few little monsters their allowance money, it’s to back up Gaga’s endless boasting of BTW being the CD of the decade. Yes, BTW the single was #1 for 6 weeks but it has the taint of everyone being reminded of Express Yourself. I just don’t think full CD’s of new material should be 99 cents even in a 2 day promotion. It doesn’t really give a clear sales figure to me. It’s like Baseball players on steroids…an unfair advantage.

      • MC

        Daniel, you’re taking issue with Lady Gaga when it was Amazon that initiated the deal, not Gaga. Gaga and her record company were paid full price while Amazon took a 3 million loss to be able to market and promote their new service, so I think you’re the one that’s missing the point. You still have a clear sales figure because Billboard broke it down for you. Roughly 440k were from Amazon’s 99 cent deal while roughly 660k were sold at regular price, still the best debut of the year. The Amazon stunt has aliented people who, like yourself, are misinformed and continue to believe that it was Gaga when it was actually Amazon that wanted to promote their new music service by using one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year to attract people.

      • Hope she dies

        not too mentioned her fans downloaded her album 29 times :(

  • Saracen Riggins

    I’m quite glad to see some quality music up there (Adele, Mumford & Sons) among the crap released these days (Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna, the list goes on). I do like some Bruno Mars, though! He is one pop star who actually seems to have genuine talent.

  • Mark

    Ugh, here we go with the music snobs commenting. “I’m glad I but quality music like Mumford & Sons”. Who cares? Just shut up, and be happy that music sales are up even slightly. Stop thinking you’re better than someone for listening to a certain type of music.

    • Mark


    • Jonathan

      Thank you!! I really like Mumford & Sons, but I love most of the other stuff that made the top sales as well. No music can be ‘better’ than other music.

  • Yiyi

    Katy Perry? Really? America really loves crap.

    • LOL

      Especially Mark above. I bet his collection is craptastic.

    • Jonathan

      Oh yes, both of you can call the music other people enjoy ‘crap’, because there is some standard to go by. I think Arcade Fire’s music is boring, but does that mean it’s crap? No. You think Katy Perry’s lyrics suck (an example), but does that mean it’s crap? No, it means you just don’t like Katy Perry. Don’t be so pretentious, please.

      • ML

        I concur.

  • Jay

    WOOT! for Mumford & Sons; they truly deserve their run at fame, bought all my friends their Albumn last Christmas, THEY ARE TRUE TALENT!

  • bronzia

    Adele!!!!! Mumford and Sons!!!!!!

  • Hairy Potter

    ”Born This Way” is a fantastic album. I bought it at the full price, (not 99cents) without any regret. Katy Perry’s album has alot of successful singles, so that is worth the purchase also. Their music isnt “crap”, its fun & entertaining. “Real” music like Adele & Mumford & Sons, is so overrated. Not all of us like it.

    • PN

      I have to give credit to the producers and musicians that create the dance pop for Lady Gaga and Katy Perry for their albums. Somebody has to do it and I don’t know how they do it with those hypercharged rhythms and chord changes on those artists’ songs. Lady Gaga’s album is very well done, so catchy on all the numbers.

      • Tony

        excuse me, but Lady GaGa co-produce and writes all her music so please I dont care if you think her music is crap or good, just dont put her in the same level as Katy Perry, Katy Perry is, for me, doing her career following ALL the tricks inside the popbook, at least Gaga is copying amazing artist like madonna, michael jackson, bowie, whILE Perry, is doing everything is the safest way possible, yes her music is catchy but thats thanks to the producers not Perry.

    • Hope she dies

      u have no taste! Just like her fashion and art @ garbage.

  • Abbey

    Music industry in terms of quality is still mostly in the dumps, but at least it’s surviving. I can at least be thankful that music is still thriving. However, I suspect that this will be this era’s disco phase, where twenty years later we’ll look back on this crap and wonder what the hell we were on.

  • erik

    hey ass hole katy perry use to make bad music also make good to like box and cup coffre also like sound alanis morissette musics

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