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Music sales up thanks to Lady Gaga, Adele

By Matthew Perpetua
RollingStone.com

After a decade of declining sales, Adele and Lady Gaga have led the record industry to the first increase in overall record sales since 2004.

According to data released by Nielsen SoundScan, total album sales have gone up by 1 percent in the first half of 2011 in comparison to the same period last year. It's a fairly minor change, but certainly a positive sign after years of double-digit percentage drops.

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Adele's "21" has been the year's biggest album to date, with more than 2.5 million copies sold since its release in late February. The disc has been a consistent best-seller: It has spent 10 nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1 and has never ranked lower than No. 3 on the albums chart.

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It is also the year's best-selling digital album, with 992,000 copies sold to date, along with 4.1 million digital sales for the single "Rolling in the Deep." ("21" is expected to soon surpass Eminem's "Recovery" as the best-selling digital album in history.) By comparison, Lady Gaga's sales have been concentrated on a record-setting premiere week in which her latest album, "Born This Way," sold 1.1 million copies.

Adele also rules in catalog sales. Her 2008 debut, "19," has sold 341,000 copies in the first six months of the year, boosting its overall sales tally to 1.2 million. Catalog sales in general account for the largest portion of the 2011 sales spike. Catalog album sales went up by 7 percent, led by older works by recent artists such as Adele and Miranda Lambert as well as classic acts such as Journey and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Nielsen SoundScan's data also reveals that sales of vinyl LPs are up by 41 percent over the first half of 2010. These sales account for only 1.9 million of the overall 221.5 million albums sold in the first six months of 2011, but it is a sign that the format is enjoying a significant resurgence.

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