There’s a lot of doom and gloom in the music industry, and with good reason. A lot of people are illegally downloading music, while others are perfectly (and rightfully) content to listen to music for free on services like Spotify and Pandora. Yet when looking at album sales for the year, the total numbers of albums sold actually had a slight increase, according to the New York Times. There’s no reason for labels to pop the bubbly yet, though. Sales were only up 1.3%, to 330.6 million. And numbers wouldn’t have been nearly as high if it wasn’t for Adele, whose juggernaut sophomore album 21 sold 5.82 million copies in 2011. But despite everyone getting Adele (dude!), rock accounts for one of the biggest increases of the year, with the biggest gain format-wise, up 1.9%, according to Billboard.biz. The 105.7 million units the genre sold was up 2 million from the previous year, and metal certainly fits under the “rock” umbrella.
The biggest increase, not surprisingly, was growth in digital music, which was up 8.5% from 2010. Sales of digital albums were up 19.5% from 2010, to 103.1 million copies, and an impressive 1.27 billion tracks were downloaded. In fact, for the first time, digital music sales surpassed physical sales, with 50.3% of all singles and albums being sold digitally. The real winner in all of this? Vinyl. Sales of vinyl rose 36% to 3.9 million, which is the highest level ever since SoundScan started tallying individual sales in 1991. And even though CD sales declined once again, there’s a silver lining. While they’re down 5.7% from 2010, they’re down significantly less than 2009 to 2010, when they fell 19%.
Regardless of where you stand on downloading or labels, buying music ultimately helps the artists, whether they’re selling it themselves or on a label. There’s really no reason not to see this as good news.