Leave it to Taylor Swift to spoil Disney’s Frozen party.
It came down to the wire, but in the final week of 2014, Swift’s 1989 finishes as the year’s top selling album. After only nine weeks on sale, Swift’s set stole the title away from Walt Disney Records’ Frozen soundtrack in the very last tracking frame of the year.
1989 — released through Big Machine Records — sold 3.66 million copies in 2014, according to Nielsen Music, while the Frozen album shifted 3.53 million. (Nielsen’s 2014 tracking year ran from Dec. 30, 2013 through Dec. 28, 2014.)
The Frozen soundtrack was the year-to-date top selling album of 2014 in every single tracking week of the year, except for the final frame (ending Dec. 28). In the week previous (Dec. 21), 1989’s tally stood at 3.34 million, while Frozen was at 3.46 million. But, with one final week left on the calendar — the most recent tracking week — it seemed 1989 would overtake Frozen. And, it did.
In the week ending Dec. 28, 1989 sold 326,000 copies, while Frozen moved 64,000, thus easily securing Swift the year’s top seller.
This is the second time Swift has earned the top selling album of a calendar year. She did it previously back in 2009 with her second studio album, Fearless, which moved 3.22 million that year.
Since Nielsen’s first full year of music sales data (1992), there has been no other instance where an album was the year’s top seller in every week, only to have the rug pulled out from under it in the final frame. The closest comparable is 20 years ago, when Ace of Base’s The Sign was the top seller of 1994 from the week ending May 15 up until the very last week of the year. Then, in the final frame of 1994 (which was actually the week ending Jan. 1, 1995), Disney’s The Lion King soundtrack overtook The Sign (4.93 million versus 4.92 million).
There have only been two times where the top selling album of the year changed in the final tracking week: this year and in 1994.
1989 and Frozen are the only two albums to sell more than 3 million copies in 2014. (Frozen was released in late 2013, and has sold 3.86 million in total.)
However, 2013 tallied 45 albums that sold at least 500,000 copies, with 13 of those selling more than a million. Comparably, in 2014, there were just 31 titles that sold 500,000, with only four of them reaching a million.
Disney Music Group has a second album among the year’s top 10 sellers, as the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack (released through Disney’s Hollywood Records division) is 2014’s No. 5 seller (898,000).
Thus, two soundtracks are among the year’s top five — the first time that’s happened in Nielsen history.
Beyonce’s self-titled album is 2014’s No. 6 best seller (878,000), followed by Barbra Streisand’s Partners (856,000), Lorde’s Pure Heroine (841,000), One Direction’s Four (814,000) and Eric Church’s The Outsiders (811,000).
Smith’s album is the year’s highest-selling full-length debut, while Pentatonix’s holiday effort is 2014’s best-seller by a group.
With Partners, diva Streisand finishes among the year’s top 10 sellers for the first time in Nielsen history. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in September, becoming her 10th chart-topper. It also made her the first artist with No. 1 albums in each of the past six decades.
Overall album sales continued to erode, as their volume fell by 11 percent in 2014, compared to 2013. In total, there were 257 million albums sold in the past year, versus 289.4 million in 2013.
Digital album sales also fell, for only the second time, by 9 percent (106.5 million compared to 117.6 million in the year previous). Digital album sales declined for the first time in 2013, when they were off by 1 percent.
41 percent of all albums sold in 2014 were downloads, the same as in 2013. The top selling digital album of 2014 is Taylor Swift’s 1989, with 1.41 million downloads. Frozen is the No. 2 digital seller, with 1.26 million. It is the first time two albums have sold more than a million downloads in a calendar year.
In total, just 13 albums have sold more than a million downloads, led by Adele’s 21, with 3.1 million digital copies. Frozen is the fourth-biggest digital album of all time, with a total of 1.43 million downloads, while 1989 is the No. 5 seller with 1.41 million.
Vinyl album sales were a bright spot in an otherwise generally bleak sales picture, as the configuration grew by 52 percent in 2014 to 9.2 million copies (up from 6.1 million in 2013). For the seventh straight year, more vinyl albums were sold than in any other year since Nielsen started tracking music sales in 1991.
Shifting our attention to digital songs, 2014 was only the second year (following 2013) where sales of the configuration fell. 1.1 billion song downloads were sold in 2014, down 12 percent from the 1.26 billion in 2013. Nielsen began tracking song download sales in the summer of 2003, shortly after Apple’s iTunes Music Store bowed in April of that year.
The top selling digital song of 2014 is Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” with 6.45 million downloads sold. To compare, in 2013, the top seller was Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (which featured Williams and T.I.), with 6.5 million (6.498 to be more exact).
“Happy” is the 21st biggest selling download of all time, and one of only 29 songs to sell more than 6 million downloads. (The biggest selling download ever is The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” with 8.62 million.)
As for the rest of 2014’s top selling download songs: John Legend’s “All Of Me” is the runner-up with 4.67 million, while Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” featuring Juicy J, is No. 3 with 4.43 million. Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” is No. 4 with 4.36 million, Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” featuring Charli XCX, is No. 5 with 3.97 million.
Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty,” featuring 2 Chainz, was the year’s sixth-largest seller, with 3.96 million. DJ Snake & Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What” is No. 7 with 3.45 million, Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” is No. 8 with 3.43 million and Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” is No. 9 with 3.37 million. Rounding out the year’s top 10 sellers is Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” with 3.34 million.
In total, 82 songs sold at least a million downloads in 2014 (down from 106 in 2013 and 108 in 2012). 25 shifted at least 2 million in 2014 (down from 38 in 2013 and 41 in 2012).
(This story was updated at 9:56 AM PST on Dec. 31 to correct sales figures for the Nos. 2-10 top selling albums. The ranking did not change.)