At the halfway point of 2013, Mumford & Sons' "Babel" and Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" lead as the year's top-selling rock album and digital song in the U.S., respectively, selling 884,000 and 3.25 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Unsurprisingly, many of the top-selling rock acts have accumulated their lofty sales sums thanks to crossover pop and adult radio airplay.
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Through the sales week that ended on June 30, the mid-way point of SoundScan's tracking year, "Babel" outranks the next biggest-seller, Imagine Dragons' "Night Visions," which has moved 692,000, followed by the Lumineers' self-titled breakthrough (649,000) and fun.'s "Some Nights" (506,000). All of those sets yielded at least one No. 1 on a Billboard rock-based songs tally that then crossed to the Billboard Hot 100's top 20, fueled heavily by pop and adult radio airplay, and, thus, greater mainstream exposure, after their initial runs at rock radio.
While four rock albums boast mid-year sales of more than 500,000 through June 30, just one did a year ago at this point: Gotye's "Making Mirrors," which by the halfway point of 2012 had sold 538,000. That set was powered by its monster hit single, "Somebody That I Used to Know" (featuring Kimbra), the top-selling digital song of the first half of 2012 (5.5 million). It, too, became a mainstream hit after starting at rock radio, eventually being named the overall No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 song of 2012.
"Babel" debuted at No. 1 on the weekly Billboard 200 chart dated Oct. 13, 2012, selling 600,000 copies in its first week. It held the summit for three weeks (and sold 1.46 million through the end of 2012) before returning to the top for two additional weeks in March following its win for Album of the Year at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards. Its cumulative sales stand at 2.35 million, also powered by the success of its lead single "I Will Wait," which topped Billboard's Hot Rock Songs chart and crossed to a No. 12 Hot 100 peak when pop radio joined in.
This year's second-largest-selling rock album, Imagine Dragons' "Night Visions," also arrived last year, bowing at its No. 2 Billboard 200 peak the week of Sept. 22, 2012. It sold 417,000 last year, bringing its release-to-date tally to 1.1 million sold. It's spun off the rock-to-pop crossover hits "It's Time" and "Radioactive."
The Lumineers' eponymous set entered the Billboard 200 more than a year ago, starting at No. 45 (April 21, 2012). As the set's hit single "Ho Hey" gained momentum, the album reached the top 10 on the Jan. 12, 2013, chart and rose to its No. 2 highpoint the following month. Of the album's 1.34 million sold to-date, 48% have been rung up in the first half of 2013, essentially aligning with the combined 2012-13 run of "Hey," which reached the Hot 100's top 20 in November and remained in the region through April.
Fun.'s "Some Nights" album is likewise a 2012 holdover, having bowed on the Billboard 200 chart dated March 31, 2012. It sold 903,000 of its 1.41 million total last year (64%), aided by the multi-format success of its singles "We Are Young," the title cut and "Carry On." The first two songs reached Nos. 1 and 3, respectively, on the Hot 100 last year, while "Carry" peaked at No. 20 this March.)
Rounding out the five of the year-to-date top-selling rock albums is the only set released this year: the soundtrack to the "The Great Gatsby" (387,000). It debuted at its No. 2 peak on the Billboard 200 dated May 25 with 137,000. The set sports rock acts including Gotye, Florence + the Machine, Jack White and the xx.
The acts with the top-selling digital rock songs over the first half of 2013 largely mirror those in the upper reaches of album ranking, as seven artists infuse both top 10s.