Thanks to [artist id="502642"]Eminem[/artist], [artist id="3187077"]Justin Bieber[/artist], [artist id="3061469"]Lady Gaga[/artist] and [artist id="2807105"]Lady Antebellum[/artist], record sales for the first half of 2010 weren't totally in the toilet. But strong sellers from those artists only helped slow the bleeding of an industry that has suffered declining annual sales for much of the past decade.
According to midyear figures provided by Nielsen SoundScan on Thursday, overall U.S. album sales fell 11 percent in the first six months of the year to 213.7 million, down from the 232.8 million in sales during the same period in 2009. Between January 4 and July 4 physical album sales fell to 154 million, down from the 172.9 million over the same 26-week period in 2009.
But while CD sales were sliding again, digital album sales were up by 13.7 million to 42 million. Sales of digital tracks were mostly flat, down .2 percent to 597 million.
"Strong releases in 2010 have helped to slow the decline of new album sales," said David Bakula, senior VP of analytics at Nielsen Entertainment, in a statement. "Albums by Eminem, Justin Bieber, Lady [Antebellum], Lady Gaga and Sade have each sold more than a million copies so far this year, and Lady A's Need You Now has sold more than 2.3 million albums, surpassing last year's best seller of this time period by a million units."
Eminem's Recovery quickly passed the 1 million mark in two weeks and Drake's Thank Me Later appears poised to reach that watermark within the month. Things are likely to be even more grim in the second half of the year in light of 2009's second-half sales boost in the wake of Michael Jackson's June 2009 death. After the King of Pop's passing, fans snatched up millions of his solo and Jackson 5 CDs and digital tracks, boosting sales figures in an otherwise flat period.
Jackson could help out again in the fall if a promised album of previously unreleased material hits shelves in time for the holidays. That LP, along with albums from T.I., Kanye West and Katy Perry in the coming months, could help boost the industry's bottom line.