Beyoncé may have been on to something with that whole "Run the World (Girls)," business after all. Though Queen B's single didn't set the world on fire, in the first half of 2011, a number of her fellow divas — Adele, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry — have helped the music business achieve something it hasn't been able to in nearly eight years: positive growth.
According to figures released on Wednesday by Nielsen SoundScan, overall album sales rose 3.6 percent to 221.5 million during the first half of this year. That marks the first time since 2004 that sales have been in the black for an industry that has suffered a decade-long slide thanks to rampant Internet piracy and slumping album sales as a result of fans cherry-picking singles on iTunes and other download services.
As we continue to hash out which songs will win this year's Summer Jam crown, a number of the female contenders are among the artists who've helped turn the sales tide, including Perry, Nicki Minaj, Adele and Gaga. (Eminem hasn't been a slouch either, thanks to his smash comeback Recovery, which recently passed the 1 million album download mark.)
Adele has already moved more than 2.5 million copies of her breakout hit 21 since February, along with 4.1 million single downloads of "Rolling in the Deep," while Gaga's Born This Way has shifted more than 1.5 million units. Perry has been doing her part as well, scoring a string of hit singles, including "E.T.," which has sold more than 4.1 million digital units this year.
Britney Spears' tourmate Minaj has the year's ninth best-selling album so far with her debut, Pink Friday, with 1.4 million in sales to date, 556,000 of which have come in this calendar year.
Like Nicki, Rihanna has helped boost numbers this year with an album that came out in late 2010. Loud has sold more than 1.3 million copies to date, 598,000 of which came in 2011.
According to Billboard, the ladies aren't alone, as British folk rock revivalists Mumford & Sons have been doing some heavy lifting too, selling 982,000 copies of their album Sigh No More so far this year. Country singer Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party has also done its part, moving 763,000 units, as has Bruno Mars' debut, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, which has sold 686,000 copies.
It's unclear at this point if the trend can sustain itself through the rest of the year. But with strong summer tour sales by Perry and rescheduled dates from Adele on the horizon, not to mention the promise of new albums from Lil Wayne, Kanye West and Jay-Z, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Willow Smith, Rick Ross, Coldplay, and "American Idol" winner Scotty McCreery, the industry may just be able to breathe a (small) sigh or relief for the first time in a long time.