Music in 2014: Taylor Takes the Year, Republic Records on Top, Streaming to the Rescue

Taylor Swift performs just before midnight from Times Square in New York City on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve 2015 on ABC.

ABC/Lou Rocco

While the U.S. music industry suffered through its worst sales year since the advent of SoundScan (now Nielsen Music) in 1991, streaming was so strong last year that the industry nevertheless saw growth -- yes, growth -- in 2014, when new metrics to measure music revenue are taken into consideration.

But before getting into the nitty-gritty, let's look at the top sellers for the year. Taylor Swift's 1989, released on Oct. 27, pulled off some amazing sales feats. After a first-week debut of 1.29 million units -- a feat that many thought was impossible in today's sales environment -- 1989 became the year's best-selling album in the very last days of 2014, helped in part by its absence from streaming services. However, for the first 51 weeks of the year, Frozen was the clear frontrunner. Swift's album scanned 3.66 million units in total, versus the 3.53 million tallied by Disney's runaway hit soundtrack. Since its release, Frozen has scanned 3.9 million units (the film's soundtrack was released in late 2013, cutting off the eligibility of those 400,000 units when measuring 2014's sales total).

The pair were two of just four albums to hit the million-unit mark in 2014: Sam Smith's In The Lonely Hour sold 1.2 million units, and Pentatonix's That's Christmas To Me scanned 1.14 million. In 2013, 13 albums moved over a million.

Not surprisingly, the year's top-selling albums were also the top 3 digital sellers. Swift's album was downloaded 1.4 million times; Frozen 1.26 million, and Smith 573,000. Meanwhile, Pharrell Williams' "Happy" earned its stripes as the most downloaded song of the year, moving 6.46 million units, according to Nielsen Music.