Despite an increasingly fragmented market, country music sales in 2012 were up substantially over those of the year before,
according to figures released by Nielsen SoundScan, the organization that tallies actual retail purchases.
Swift was country’s largest benefactor.
In fact, country was one of only two genres of music that experienced a
jump in sales. Fans purchased 44.6 million physical copies of country albums during the year just ending, an increase of 4.2
percent over the 42.8 million copies sold in 2011.
Rock albums enjoyed a 2 percent bump — from 100.5 million to 102.5
million. However, alternative, Christian/gospel, classical, dance/electronic, jazz, Latin, metal, new age, RB, rap and soundtracks
all sold fewer albums, with classical suffering the greatest dip at 20.5 percent.
Country also had a big increase in
digital albums sales — from 8.1 million in 2011 to 11.2 million last year. Its 37.8 percent jump outstripped the gains in
all other genres.
In digital sales of individual tracks, country increased from 143.7 million to 162.1 million, a rise
of 12.8 percent
Overall music sales — which includes albums, singles, music videos and digital tracks — were up 3.1
percent, from 1.611 billion to 1.661 billion units.
Of the Top 10 best-selling albums of 2012, five were country: Swift’s
Red, No. 2 (3.1 million); Carrie Underwood‘s Blown Away,
No. 7 (1.2 million); Luke Bryan‘s Tailgates Tanlines, No.
8 (1.1 million); Lionel Richie’s Tuskegee, No. 9 (1.07 million); and Jason
Aldean‘s Night Train, No. 10 (1.02 million).
Adele’s 21 topped the list, selling 4.4 million units
in 2012. Since its release in February 2011, 21 has sold more than 10 million copies. Adele registered total album
sales of 5.1 million in 2012.
Counting sales of all their album titles, four country acts were among the Top 10 best-selling
artists: Swift, No. 2 (4 million); Aldean, No. 6 (1.8 million); Underwood, No. 9 (1.5 million); and Bryan, No. 10 (1.4 million).
Red was the year’s second-highest-selling digital album with 863,000 copies moved.
Country artists had the No.
3, No. 4 and No. 5 best-selling Christmas albums: Lady Antebellum‘s
On This Winter’s Night (439,000), Blake Shelton‘s Cheers,
It’s Christmas (428,000) and Scotty McCreery‘s Christmas
With Scotty McCreery (348,000).
Swift and Kenny Chesney
were the only two country artists making the Top 10 list of those getting the most airplay. Swift was at No. 4 and Chesney
at No. 9. Katy Perry scored the No. 1 airplay spot.
Swift was also the No. 1 most-streamed artist of the year and the
only country one making the Top 10.
Four of the best-selling acts of the Nielsen SoundScan-era — which stretches from
1993 to the present — are country artists.
Of the Top 10 best-selling
digital albums of the Nielsen SoundScan era, the No. 7, No. 9 and No. 10 spots belong to Swift’s Fearless (875,000
copies), Red (863,000) and Speak Now (795,000), respectively.