Music Sales Down 2.5 Percent In 2010

Nielsen SoundScan released its annual report on music sales Monday, and the results were less than surprising. Physical sales continued to decline, digital sales continued to rise, and crap pop continues to reign supreme both at the cash register and on the airwaves.

During the period of Jan. 4, 2010 to Jan. 2, 2011, overall sales came in at 1.507 billion units, down 2.5 percent from 2009's total of 1.545 billion. Total album sales dropped almost 13 percent to 326.2 million, while digital album sales rose 13 percent to 86.3 million. Physical album sales dropped 19 percent to 240 million units sold.

To put that in perspective, that means every man, woman and child in the U.S. bought almost five units of recorded music in 2010, based on the census bureau's reported population of a little more than 308 million.

Sales of vinyl LPs continued to rise, up another 14 percent to 2.8 million units from 2.5 million in 2009, accounting for a whopping 1 percent of overall sales. Seventy-one percent of vinyl sales came from independent record stores, which in turn recorded about 7 percent of overall sales.

Rap was the only genre to see an increase of overall sales, from 26.4 million sales in 2009 to 27.3 million. That's good enough for sixth place among major genres, behind rock, R&B, alternative, country - the only genre with a sales decline of less than 10 percent last year - and metal. SoundScan does not classify pop as a separate genre.

Individually, Eminem's Recovery was the top-selling album of the year at 3.4 million units, and Katy Perry and Train logged highest sales for individual songs - Perry's "California Gurls" was the No. 1 digital song (including remixes) at 4.4 million sales, and Train's "Hey, Soul Sister" was the top-selling digital track with 4.25 million.

On the radio, Taylor Swift took home the most-played artist honors, and Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" was the most-played song. The only rock artists to crack the Top 10 airplay list were Nickelback and Train (if you want to call them rock).


1. Eminem, Recovery (3.4 million) 2. Lady Antebellum, Need You Now (3.1 million) 3. Taylor Swift, Speak Now (2.96 million) 4. Justin Bieber, My World 2.0 (2.3 million) 5. Susan Boyle, The Gift (1.85 million) 6. Lady Gaga, The Fame (1.59 million) 7. Sade, Soldier of Love (1.3 million) 8. Drake, Thank Me Later (1.27 million) 9. Usher, Raymond v. Raymond (1.18 million) 10. Ke(Dollar Sign)ha, Animal (1.14 million)

TOP SELLING DIGITAL SONGS OF 2010 including remixes

1. Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg, "California Gurls" 2. Train, "Hey, Soul Sister" 3. Eminem feat. Rihanna, "Love the Way You Lie" 4. Taio Cruz, "Dynamite" 5. B.o.B. feat. Hayley Williams, "Airplanes" 6. Usher feat., "OMG" 7. Eminem, "Not Afraid" 8. Bruno Mars, "Just the Way You Are" 9. Taio Cruz feat. Ludacris, "Break Your Heart" 10. Lady Antebellum, "Need You Now"


1. Taylor Swift 2. Eminem 3. Lady Antebellum 4. Justin Bieber 5. Glee cast 6. Susan Boyle 7. Lady Gaga 8. Michael Jackson 9. Zac Brown Band 10. The Beatles


1. Taylor Swift 2. Lady Antebellum 3. Lady Gaga 4. Ke(Dollar Sign)ha 5. Black Eyed Peas 6. Rihanna 7. Train 8. Jason Derulo 9. Kenny Chesney 10. Nickelback


1. The Beatles, Abbey Road (35,000) 2. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs (18,800) 3. The Black Keys, Brothers (18,400) 4. Vampire Weekend, Contra (15,000) 5. Michael Jackson, Thriller (14,200) 6. The National, High Violet (13,600) 7. Beach House, Teen Dream (13,000) 8. Jimi Hendrix Experience, Valleys of Neptune (11,400) 9. Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon (10,600) 10. The xx, The xx (10,200)

TOP 10 GENRES BY SALES Albums may count in more than one genre

1. Rock (103.7 million) 2. R&B (57.8 million) 3. Alternative (53.7 million) 4. Country (43.7 million) 5. Metal (32.5 million) 6. Rap (27.3 million) 7. Christian/Gospel (24.2 million) 8. Soundtracks (16.4 million) 9. Latin (12.3 million) 10. Classical (8.9 million)

TOP 10 U.S. MUSIC SALES MARKETS Physical/digital unit sales, in millions

1. New York (15.2/ 7.7) 2. Los Angeles (11.8/ 5.5) 3. Chicago (7.2/ 3.1) 4. Philadelphia (6.6./ 2.5) 5. Washington, D.C. (5.8/ 3.0) 6. Dallas/Fort Worth (5.5/ 2.2) 7. Boston (5.4/ 2.6) 8. San Francisco Bay Area (4.8/ 3.4) 9. Atlanta (4.5/ 1.8) 10. Seattle (4.4/ 2.1)

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray