Lucian Grainge's Universal Music Group managed to fend off a charge from his former boss Doug Morris' Sony Music Entertainment, beating the latter company out in market share last year, according to Nielsen SoundScan data.
For the year, UMG boasted market share album plus track equivalent ones (whereby 10 tracks equals one album) of 32.8%, versus Sony's 29.1% thanks to the addition of EMI Music scans for the last quarter of the year.
But even without EMI, Universal would have had a market share of 30.5%, according to Billboard calculations based on Nielsen SoundScan data.
If the 6.5% that EMI tallied before the acquisition was completed is added to UMG's total, the divide between the UMG and Sony widens to a 10% point gap with UMG's tally hitting 39.3%.
Grainge successfully completed a risky and drawn out £1.2 billion ($1.9 billion) acquisition of EMI's recorded music unit last September on the regulatory condition that it divests certain assets including EMI's Parlophone label, which for the time being are included in UMG's share. When UMG completed the EMI acquisition, sources estimated to Billboard that the Parlophone, Chrysalis, Sanctuary and Mute assets to be divested in order to win regulatory approval accounted for about 1.5 percentage points of EMI's then 9% in market share. That means UMG's U.S. market share will be about 38% when the assets are divested and if it keeps pace with last year's performance for both itself and EMI.
Sony continues to gain momentum, improving from 28.4% last year in album plus TEA market share. In 2012, Sony distributed albums claimed four of the top five spots. Besides the top selling Adele album "21," Sony also distributes both One Direction albums "Up All Night," the No. 3 album that scanned 1.6 million units, and "Take Me Home, the No. 5 album that scanned 1.3 million units. Additionally, the Sony-owned, RED-distributed "Babel" scanned 1.5 million units for Glassnote Records, making the Mumford & Son album the No. 4 best-selling record for the year. The only album not in the top five was Taylor Swift's "Red" album on Big Machine, which is distributed by Universal Music Group Distribution.
Meanwhile, the Warner Music Group saw its market share increase slightly last year to 18.9% from 18.7% in 2011. Its best-selling album was Fun.'s "Some Nights," which scanned 903,000 units.
On the other hand, independent labels collectively accounted for 12.1% market share. But that's only if you calculate market share by distribution ownership. If you count market share by label ownership, the indie market share is much larger - 32.6%, Billboard estimates through calculations based on Nielsen SoundScan data.
Lastly, EMI garnered 6.5% in the first nine-months of the year before it was acquired by UMG.