At the mid-way point in 2012, Adele's "21" and Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" (featuring Kimbra), rule as the year's biggest selling album and digital song in the U.S., respectively -- selling 3.69 million and 5.50 million according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Through the sales week that ended on July 1, the half-way point of SoundScan's tracking year, "21" is the only album that has sold more that 1 million copies this year. The next biggest selling album is Lionel Richie's "Tuskegee," which has moved 912,000.
This is the first time the industry has only seen one album sell a million mid-way through the year in the 21 years SoundScan has been tracking sales data.
"21" was also the top selling album halfway through 2011 (2.5 million) and went on to become the year's best seller (5.8 million).
In the SoundScan era, no album has been the top seller in the first half of any two years. At the rate it's going, "21" could be the best seller of 2012, making it the first album to top the year-end charts twice in the SoundScan era.
Adele's "21" debuted at No. 1 on the weekly Billboard 200 chart upon its release in February 2011 and has been among the top 10 selling albums every week since its bow. Three singles from the album have reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
So far in 2012, 11 albums have sold at least 500,000 copies. A year ago at this point (through the week ending July 3, 2011), 16 had moved a half-million. Of those, there were two that had shifted a million or more: "21" and Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" (1.54 million).
Nine of 2012's top 20 selling albums were released this year, while another nine dropped in 2011. The remaining two of the top 20 are even older than that: the late Whitney Houston's "Whitney: The Greatest Hits" (No. 4 this year with 818,000) came out in 2000 while Adele's "19" (No. 10 with 539,000) was released in 2008
A year ago at this point, nine albums were released in 2011, while the other 11 came out in 2010.
With Adele posting two albums among the top 10 so far in 2012, she's the first to do so since Justin Bieber had a pair two years ago. Mid-way through 2010, he ranked at No. 2 with "My World 2.0" (1.39 million) and No. 9 with "My World" (710,000).
This year's top five selling albums are a rather unlikely bunch of disparate titles. We've already established that "21" is in a category by itself. Next up, Richie's "Tuskegee" was a left-field hit for the veteran singer, giving him his first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 since 1986's "Dancing on the Ceiling."
2012's third-biggest selling set is One Direction's first album "Up All Night," with 899,000. After pop vocal groups essential vaporized from the top of the charts for years, boy band One Direction charged onto the Billboard tallies earlier this year. The quintet made history on the Billboard 200 as the first U.K. group to bow at No. 1 with a debut album.
The fourth-largest seller of 2012 is Whitney Houston's "Whitney: The Greatest Hits," having sold 818,000. After the diva died on Feb. 11, the compilation returned to the Billboard 200, spending three straight weeks at No. 2. In the fifth place position on the mid-year ranking is 2012's best-selling various artists compilation, "Now 41" (714,000). A year ago, the "Now 37" effort was the No. 8 seller with 637,000.
None of this year's top 10 sellers are independently-distributed. That's a turn from a year ago, when two of the top five were indie. At that point, Mumford & Sons' "Sigh No More" was No. 3 (982,000) and Jason Aldean's "My Kinda Party" was No. 4 (763,000). (Both albums go through RED Distribution.) The highest ranking indie-distributed set so far this year is "My Kinda Party" (No. 20 with 399,000).
Singer Gotye, who broke through this year with his smash No. 1 Hot 100 single "Somebody That I Used to Know," rests at No. 11 on the mid-year albums chart with "Making Mirrors" (538,000).
His "Somebody That I Used to Know" is also the year's best-selling download song, with 5.50 million. It is one of two titles that have shifted 5 million in 2012. fun.'s "We Are Young" (featuring Janelle Monae) is the other, with 5.09 million.
No song has ever sold 5 million in a calendar year's first six months. A year ago at this point, we set records with the first song(s) to surpass 4 million. Katy Perry's "E.T." (featuring Kanye West) was the mid-year best selling song of 2011 with 4.12 million while Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" was in second place with 4.09 million.
With "Somebody That I Used to Know" still selling well, it could become the first song to sell 6 million downloads in a year. It is currently the 15th best-selling digital song of all time, with an overall 5.59 million sold (the track was released in late 2011, hence what its overall number is larger than its 2012 sum).
This year, 47 songs have sold a million downloads, down from the 52 at this point a year ago. 15 titles have shifted 2 million or more, as compared to 17 a year ago.
All three of this year's top sellers so far are songs that were the first Hot 100 chart hit for each act. Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" is followed by fun.'s "We Are Young" and Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" (4.06 million). The latter is currently in its fourth consecutive week at No. 1 on the Hot 100.
Among this year's top 20 download songs, every title has reached the weekly top 10 on the Hot 100 except for one. Only Drake's "The Motto" (featuring Lil Wayne), missed the top 10. It's the No. 18 seller so far (1.82 million) and peaked at No. 14 on the Hot 100.
Six of the acts with top 20 selling songs are also among those with top 20 albums this year: Gotye, Minaj, One Direction, Justin Bieber, Adele and Drake. However, some of the biggest songs this year are from albums that either just reached the marketplace, or, have yet to be released on an album. Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe," for example, is due to be featured on her debut album this September. Maroon 5's "Payphone" (the No. 6 seller, with 3.08 million) is from the "Overexposed" album which only came out on June 26.
Only two acts have both a top 10 selling song and album this year: One Direction and Minaj. At the mid-way point in 2011, there were five shared acts: Adele, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Chris Brown and Perry.
Digital track sales continue to climb overall, with 698.02 million tracks have been sold -- a gain of 6% versus the mid-point last year (660.80 million).
However, album sales volume isn't as fortunate. A year ago, mid-year album sales had its first growth since 2004. This year, we're back to normal -- that is "down" -- with 150.46 million albums sold (down 3% stacked next to the 155.46 million sold at this point in 2011).