With 2011 half-over, Adele's "21" and Katy Perry's "E.T." (featuring Kanye West), reign as the year's biggest selling album and digital song in the U.S., respectively -- shifting 2,517,000 and 4,120,000 according to Nielsen SoundScan.
"21" has moved 2,517,000 copies in the U.S. since its release on Feb. 22 -- through the week ending July 3, the mid-point of the tracking year. It's the only album to have sold more than 2 million in 2011, and one of only two to surpass 1 million. The second is Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," which has moved 1,540,000. (72% of that total was shifted in its debut week, when it started with 1,108,000 -- making it only the 17th album to sell a million in one week since SoundScan began tracking data in 1991.)
So far in 2011, 16 albums have sold at least 500,000 copies. A year ago at this point (through the week ending July 4, 2010), 18 had moved a half-million. Of those, one had sold more than 2 million (Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now"), while four additional sets had crossed the million threshold.
Nine of 2011's top 20 sellers were released this year, while the other 11 dropped in 2010. The most senior title among the top 20 is Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now," which came out on Jan. 26, 2010. A year ago at this point, 11 albums were released in 2010, while 7 were 2009 releases and two were from 2008 (Lady Gaga's "The Fame" and Zac Brown Band's "The Foundation").
Two out of the top four sellers this year -- Mumford & Sons' "Sigh No More" (No. 3 with 982,000) and Jason Aldean's "My Kinda Party" (No. 4 with 763,000) are independently-distributed. (Both albums go through RED Distribution.) It's the first time an indie set has ranked this high mid-way through the year.
Speaking of Mumford, the band's No. 3 ranking is the highest for a rock band this year, and the highest since Daughtry's self-titled set was the mid-year leader in 2007.
Nicki Minaj's "Pink Friday" is the ninth biggest seller so far in '11 -- the first time a female hip-hop set has been this high since Lauryn Hill's "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" was No. 6 halfway through 1999.
Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" album is among this year's half-million-plus album, ranking as the tenth-biggest of 2011 (600,000). She also claims the biggest selling song of the year thus far, with "E.T." having shifted 4,120,000.
"E.T." is one of two titles to have sold more than 4 million downloads this year. Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" is the other, with 4,089,000. It's the first time we've had a song -- much less two -- hit 4 million in download sales this quickly in a year. At this point last year, the top selling song was Train's "Hey, Soul Sister," with 3,381,000.
This year, 52 songs have sold more than a million downloads, up from the 39 at this point last year.
Digital track sales continue to rise, as a robust 660.80 million tracks have been sold -- a gain of 11% versus the mid-point last year (597.44 million).
In a surprising twist of events, album sales volume -- which have been on the downturn for years -- has actually grown compared to this point a year ago. It's the first time we've seen a mid-year gain since 2004.
155.46 million albums have been sold in 2011 -- up 1% compared to the 153.96 million that had been sold up through July 4, 2010. A year ago, we were down 11% stacked next to year-to-date 2009. The last time album sales were up mid-way through the year was in 2004, when we were up by 7% (sales week ending June 27, 2004).
We're currently in the sixth straight weekly year-over-year gain in album sales, a streak that started when Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" made its historic 1.1 million No. 1 bow. (Some chart watchers will likely note how even if you back out Gaga's amazing first-week number, we'd still be ahead in album sales this year.)
What's helping overall album sales this year isn't necessarily new releases, but reissued older titles that are selling strongly at big box retailers. Catalog albums are up by 7% year-to-date, compared to "current" titles, which are down 4%. (Current titles are generally those released within the past 18 months.) Many older albums have been reissued on CD over the past year to Wal-Mart and Target, for example, with pricing anywhere between $5 and $10.