Eminem, Drake Lead Rap Sales Surge in 2010

Kevin Mazur/EM/WireImage
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 27: Eminem performs onstage during the 2010 BET Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on June 27, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/EM/WireImage)

While there was plenty of dispiriting news in Nielsen SoundScan's year-end numbers for 2010, there were a couple of bright spots: For one, rap music made a big comeback last year, driven by the top-selling album of the year, Eminem's "Recovery," and the non-traditional store sector became the No. 1 retail channel.

While its bump was not huge -- just 3% -- rap was the only genre to post an album-sales increase last year, scanning 27.3 million units, up from 26.4 million units in the prior year -- and five straight years of declining sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan. 2009 saw a nearly 21% drop from 2008's 33.4 million sales, continuing a plunge from 2007's 41.7 million, 2006's 59.5 million and 2005's total scans of 75.1 million. Moreover, in each of those years, the rap decline was larger than the overall U.S. album market's decline.

Eminem's 'Recovery' Is 2010's Best-Selling Album

Along with Eminem's 3.415 million sales for the year, other big sellers in the genre include Drake's "Thank Me Later" (1.27 million), Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" (882,000), Nicki Minaj's "Pink Friday" (852,000) and Lil Wayne's "Rebirth" (710,000) and "I Am Not a Human Being" (664,000), according to Nielsen SoundScan.

It's all a far cry from the way that rap began the new millennium: It sold 107 million units in 2000, racking up 13.6% of overall U.S. album sales. By contrast, hip-hop finished 2010 with 8.3% of all U.S. album sales.

U.S. Album Sales Fall 12.8% in 2010, Digital Tracks Eke Out 1% Gain

Country also had a solid year, although the genre was down 5% to 43.7 million units from 2009's total of 46.1 million units; all other large genres posted declines equal or worse than the overall album market. For example, Christian/Gospel sales declined 13% to 24.2 million units, down from the 27.8 million units the genre garnered in 2009. Meanwhile, rock, the largest genre tracked by SoundScan (it doesn't track pop as a genre) saw its sales drop 16% to 103.7 million units, down from 124.2 million in the prior year. Also, R&B suffered a similar decline to nearly 57.9 million units, down 17% from 70 million. However, SoundScan's R&B totals includes rap sales; excluding those, R&B 30.5 million in 2010 was down a whopping 30% from the 43.3 million scanned in 2009.

For more in-depth analysis of the year-end sales figures for 2010, go to Billboard.biz.