Adele's 21 sold 3,668,000 copies in the first half of 2012, which is more than any other album has sold in the first half of the year since 50 Cent's The Massacre blew through 4,022,000 copies in the first half of 2005. 21 sold more copies in the first half of this year than it did in the first half of 2011 (2,517,000), when it was a new release. It's the first album to finish as the top-seller of the first half of the year twice since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales for Billboard in 1991.
Otherwise, the album sales news was grim. 21 was the only album that sold 1 million copies in the first half. Eleven albums sold 500K copies. This is down from past years. (I have the depressing details below.)
This was the first time in Nielsen SoundScan history that not one album that was released in the first half of the year sold 1 million copies. The top-seller that was released in the first half was Lionel Richie's Tuskegee, which sold 912K. Close behind is Up All Night, the first U.S. album by teen sensations One Direction (899K).
Whitney Houston's 2000 greatest hits album, Whitney: The Greatest Hits is the #4 album of the first half, with sales of 818K copies since Jan. 1. This is almost entirely a reaction to her shocking death on Feb. 11. The top five for the first half is rounded out by the hits compilation Now 41 (714K).
The second five consists of Carrie Underwood's Blown Away (602K), Luke Bryan's 2011 album Tailgates & Tanlines (575K), Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (557K), Drake's 2011 album Take Care (549K) and Adele's 2008 album 19 (539K). Simple math tells us that Adele sold 4,207,000 albums in the first half, a period that included her sweep of the Grammy Awards and such high-profile media events as a 60 Minutes profile and a prime-time special on NBC.
Justin Bieber's Believe sold 490K in its first two weeks of release. It already ranks #12 for the first half of the year.
There were several high-profile disappointments in the first half. Madonna's MDNA sold 484K copies in the first half, but a widely-mocked album/ticket bundle caused first-week sales to be artificially high. Van Halen's A Different Kind Of Truth, the band's first studio album featuring original lead singer David Lee Roth since the blockbuster 1984, sold a less-than-blockbuster 395K. Paul McCartney's Kisses On The Bottom sold 217K, despite a high-profile launch which included a performance slot on the Grammys on Feb. 12. Glee: The Music: Season Three: The Graduation Album sold just 87K, a total topped by the soundtracks to three competing TV shows (see below).
The top five albums by artists who were new to The Billboard 200 in the first half of the year were One Direction's Up All Night (899K), Gotye's Making Mirrors (538K), Lana Del Rey's Born To Die (268K), Of Monsters And Men's My Head Is An Animal (216K) and Alabama Shakes' Boys & Girls (205K). Note: I skipped over Jack White's solo debut Blunderbuss (324K). White has been a star since the White Stripes emerged a decade ago.
The top five albums by rock artists were Gotye's Making Mirrors (538K), Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball (425K), the Black Keys' El Camino (424K), Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto (415K) and Van Halen's A Different Kind Of Truth (395K). (The Fine Print: The Hunger Games soundtrack, which includes both rock and pop, sold 402K).
The top five hip-hop albums were Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (557K), Drake's Take Care (549K), Young Jeezy's TM 103: Hustlerz Ambition (312K), Tyga's Careless World (257K) and Lil Wayne's Tha Carter IV (246K). (I skipped over LMFAO's Sorry For Party Rocking (348k), which strikes me as pure pop.)
The top five albums by R&B artists (excluding hip-hop and a few Whitney Houston albums, which may be closer to pop): Rihanna's Talk That Talk (424K), Mary J. Blige's My Life: The Journey Continues (219K), Usher's Looking 4 Myself (212K), Beyonce's 4 (170K) and Monica's New Life (151K).
The top five albums by "core" country artists (this excludes pop veteran Lionel Richie): Carrie Underwood's Blown Away (602K), Luke Bryan's Tailgates & Tanlines (575K), Lady Antebellum's Own The Night (465K), Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party (399K) and Eric Church's Chief (363K).
The top five movie soundtracks were The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 And Beyond (402K), The Bodyguard (202K), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (164K), Rock Of Ages (131K) and Project X (122K).
The top five TV soundtracks were Shake It Up: Live 2 Dance: Music From The Disney Channel Series (148K), The Fresh Beat Band: Music From The Hit TV Show (143K), SMASH (114K), Glee: The Music: Season Three: The Graduation Album (87K) and Big Time Rush's Elevate (76K).
Adele and One Direction also had the best-selling music videos of the first half of the year. Adele's Live At The Royal Albert Hall sold 464K in the first half, more than any video has sold in the first half since Collision Park by Jay/Z Linkin Park sold 493K in the first half of 2005. One Direction's Up All Night: The Live Tour sold 178K. This marks the first time that two music videos have topped 100K in the first half since 2008.
Here are the rest of the top five music videos of the first half of the year. Phantom Of The Opera At The Royal Albert Hall sold 84K. Whitney Houston's Greatest Hits sold 74K. Martin Scorsese's documentary George Harrison: Living In The Material World sold 64K.
And here's the comparison to years past. Just one album sold 1 million copies in the first half of the year, the lowest number in Nielsen SoundScan history. There were two in the first half of last year; four in the first half of 2010. There were at least 16 in the first half of every year from 1994 through 2006. The tally peaked in 2001, when 37 albums sold 1 million copies in the first half of the year.
Eleven albums sold 500K in the first half of the year, which is also the lowest total in Nielsen SoundScan history. There were 16 in the first half of last year; 17 in the first half of 2010. There were at least 50 in the first half of every year from 1994 through 2005. The tally peaked in 2000, when 87 albums sold 500K copies in the first half of the year.
So if the trend line for albums is so bad, why has Adele's 21 sold so well? That's the $10 million question. Answer that and you can be a music industry titan.