As if the diminishing space on his awards mantle weren't enough validation, Usher is officially the biggest artist of 2004 now that his Confessions has been named the best-selling album of the year, and his single "Yeah!" has been named the most-played song of the year, according to figures released Wednesday (January 5).
Confessions previously had the distinction of being the most-shipped album of the year (see "Usher's Confessions The Most-Shipped Album Of 2004"), but shipped isn't necessarily sold. Still, the numbers are close: While the Recording Industry Association of America gave Usher credit for shipping more than 8 million copies of his third album, he actually sold 7,978,594 copies, according to sales-tracker SoundScan. The gulf between Usher and the artists just behind him was wide — he sold over twice as many copies as Norah Jones' Feels Like Home (#2 in '04 with 3,842,920 copies sold) and Eminem's Encore (#3 with 3,517,097 sold).
Since country music sales were up 12 percent, a good chunk of the artists making up 2004's top 10 also came from that field: Kenny Chesney's When the Sun Goes Down was #4 (3,072,224 sold), Gretchen Wilson's Here for the Party #5 (2,931,097 sold) and Tim McGraw's Live Like You Were Dying #6 (2,786,840 sold). Rounding out the list were Maroon 5's Songs About Jane at #7 (2,708,415 sold), Evanescence's Fallen at #8 (2,614,226 sold) and Ashlee Simpson at #9 (2,576,945 sold). The 10th spot belongs not to an individual artist but a compilation — Now That's What I Call Music! 16, with 2,560,316 sold.
Not surprisingly, many of these same artists make repeat appearances on the list of 2004's most-played radio hits, according to Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems. Usher not only makes this list twice, but he again nabs the top spot, with "Yeah!" getting 496,805 total plays. Hoobastank's "The Reason" comes in just behind with 489,976 spins, Maroon 5's "This Love" clocks in at #3 with 438,589 spins, and Usher returns to the list thanks to "Burn," which is #4 with 355,228 spins.
The rest of the list includes Nickelback's "Someday" at #5 (323,627 spins), Evanescence's "My Immortal" at #6 (317,577 spins), Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You" at #7 (315,966 spins), J-Kwon's "Tipsy" at #8 (309,293 spins), Mario Winans' "I Don't Wanna Know" at #9 with 305,423 spins, and 3 Doors Down's "Here Without You" at #10 with (304,188 spins).
Despite projections that record sales would be lower than in previous years, overall music purchases in 2004 exceeded 800 million for the first time since 2000. Overall album sales were up 1.6 percent, while CD album sales, which made up 98 percent of all album sales, were up 2.3 percent, compared to 2003.
Digital music sales were also up, and by a huge margin. More than 140 million digital tracks were purchased during 2004. To get an idea of the growth in that area, during the second half of the year, 91.4 million digital music tracks were sold, compared to 19.2 million in the same period in 2003.