Eminem’s “Recovery” and Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” were the best selling album and song of 2010, but double digit sales decline left little for the rest of the ailing music industry to celebrate.
The year-end sales figures released Wednesday by Nielsen SoundScan have album sales down 12.8 percent from 2009. Blame it on piracy, which the industry has targeted with renewed Congressional vigor, or a bad economy or what have you but that drop from 373.9 million units sold in 2009 to 326.2 million units in 2010 also saw sales of physical CDs plummeting 20 percent for the fourth year in a row.
With limbo low numbers that would have been deemed flops less than a decade ago, only a lucky 13 albums even scanned sales of more than a million copies – a record low in the nearly 20 years Nielsen SoundScan has been tracking sales.
Among that select group, which included Lady GaGa and country ingénue Taylor Swift, the biggest seller of 2010 was easily Eminem. The best selling artist of the last decade, the Detroit hip hop superstar’s straight edged “Recovery” album, which came out on June 18, sold 3.4 million units last year. In a sign of how much things have changed in the music biz in the last decade, those sales are great for 2010 but less than the 3.65 million that “The Marshal Mathers LP” sold in its first month of release in May 2000.
Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” the best selling single download song of 2010, sold 4.4 million units. Good for Russell Brand’s better half but still less than the 4.8 million units that the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” sold in 2009. “It’s gone from bad to worse,” one label executive told TheWrap, “but I’m feeling optimistic about 2011.”
Of course, that optimism, the exec admitted, came not from any new act or new musical genre but from the potential decline in peer-to-peer network and illegal downloading. “I’m hearing the kids talk about the demise of Limewire - and when I say kids, I mean 10 to 22 year olds."
Overall music sales, which include every album, song and even video, were down 2.4 percent from 1.55 billion units in 2009 to 1.51 billion in 2010. While digital album download sales rose by 13 percent, up from 76.4 million in 2009 to 86.3 million, sales of individual digital songs, long hoped to be the white knight of the besieged industry, only rose by a mere 1 percent.