Call it the Adele Effect: Music sales actually rose in 2011, the first time the industry has posted a gain in seven years.
According to Nielsen SoundScan, overall sales were up a modest 3 percent last year, as consumers purchased some 458 million albums — digital downloads of albums rose 20 percent, to 103 million, while sales of compact discs sank nearly 6 percent, to 225 million — and downloaded more than 1.2 billion singles, a 9 percent increase from the previous year. It's all a welcome change of pace for the music industry, which in recent years has been battered by double-digit declines in sales.
And, while there are certainly mitigating factors that contributed to the sales gains — the RIAA's ongoing antipiracy efforts, an increase of consumers with mobile devices, the rise of services like Spotify and Google Music — it certainly didn't hurt that Adele released one of the biggest-selling albums in recent memory last year, not to mention a pair of much-downloaded singles. Her 21 album sold more than 5.8 million copies in 2011 — the most of any album since Usher's Confessions in 2004 (which, incidentally, marks the last year the industry saw increases in total sales) — and her massive "Rolling in the Deep" has also sold some 5.8 million copies. She sold nearly 900,000 copies of her debut album, 19, last year, too.
Big sellers like Lady Gaga's Born This Way and Michael Bublé's Christmas also helped bolster sales. And while it remains to be seen if this jump was just an aberration, you're not going to hear anyone in the music biz complaining. Let's hope Adele will release a new album this year, too.