Adele helps U.S. album sales increase for the first time since 2004

Who knew that Adele would be the (temporary) savior of the music industry? Buoyed by the 5.82 million copies of Adele's 21 sold in America this past year, album sales for 2011 in the U.S. rose for the first time since 2004. While physical CD sales fell six percent during the year, a huge increase in digital sales strengthened the industry figures, as a 20 percent surge in digital album downloads led to 103.1 million albums being purchased digitally. But perhaps the most gratifying figure to come out of the year-end sales numbers was the continued increase of vinyl sales, as 3.9 million records were sold in '11, up drastically from the 2.8 million sold in '10.

Best-selling albums in the US in 2011

1. 21 by Adele - 5.82m

2. Christmas by Michael Buble - 2.45m

3. Born This Way by Lady Gaga - 2.10m

4. Tha Carter IV by Lil Wayne - 1.91m

5. My Kinda Party by Jason Aldean - 1.57m

6. Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons - 1.42m

7. Take Care by Drake - 1.24m

8. Under The Mistletoe by Justin Bieber - 1.24m

9. Watch The Throne by Jay and Kanye West - 1.23m

10. Own The Night by Lady Antebellum - 1.20m

The nearly six million copies of Adele's 21 sold in the U.S. in '11 was the highest total sales of a top-selling album of the year since Usher's Confessions sold 7.98 million copies in '04. The last British act to have the top-selling album for the year in the U.S. was the Spice Girls debut record in 1997. Adele also led the way with the best-selling single of the year, as "Rolling In The Deep" was downloaded 5.81 million times during '11. Digital song sales also saw a dramatic uptick during the year, reaching a record 1.27 downloads throughout the year (up from 1.17 billion in '10).

But the news isn't nearly as good across the pond, as album sales in Britain fell 5.6 percent, due mainly to a drop of 12.6 percent in physical CD sales throughout the country. Digital album sales are on the rise there as well, though, but even a 26.6 percent increase in digital sales couldn't help bolster Britain's gloomy music sales figures. Adele's 21 also was the top-selling album in the UK, selling 3.8 million copies.

It truly warms my heart to see the dramatic increase in vinyl sales throughout the year. While the 3.9 million sales of vinyl represents a mere fraction of the year's total music sales, the substantial growth over last year's numbers is surely a good sign for those record labels that still care to take the time and put in the effort to put out their releases on wax. The Beatles Abbey Road once again led the way in vinyl sales, with 41,000 copies of their classic LP purchased in the U.S. in 2011, followed by more modern, current releases.

Best Selling Vinyl Albums of 2011

1. Abbey Road by the Beatles 41,000
2. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes 29,700
3. Bon Iver by Bon Iver 27,200
4. Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons 26,800
5. King Of Limbs by Radiohead 20,800
6. 21 by Adele 16,500
7. For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver 16,200
8. The Whole Love by Wilco 14,900
9. Brothers by the Black Keys 14,200
10. El Camino by the Black Keys 13,800

If I love an album enough, without fail I will seek it out on vinyl and gladly pay more for that privilege (even if I already have the digital files). I appreciate the rich, full sound of vinyl, the simple joy putting a needle on a record, as well as the more pronounced album art, an under-appreciated extravagance that is being lost in the digital age. But if vinyl sales continue to increase in '12, even more record labels and bands will start to cater to those of us who still appreciate spinning the black circle.

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