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Sonarflow for Spotify

U.S. music sales grew 3.1 percent in 2012 to set a new record for the music industry, according to year-end report compiled by Nielsen and Billboard.

Last year’s sales growth is especially significant because it shows that the rise in streaming music service use isn’t necessarily discouraging people from buying the songs that they like. That’s saying a lot considering many of those music services had record-breaking years themselves. Spotify reached a milestone with 5 million paying subscribers this year, and Pandora saw a record number of listener hours logged on the service.

As for the report, the music industry sold a total of 1.65 billion units in 2012, which includes the sale of digital singles, music videos, digital albums, and physical albums. Nielsen also found that digital album sales increased 14 percent for the year to 118 million units and accounted for 37 percent of all albums sold. (That’s up from the 31 percent digital album sales accounted for in 2011.) Of course, physical album sales continued their decline, dropping 12.8 percent from 2011.

And while vinyl record sales continued to climb again in 2012 (17.7 percent to 4.6 million units), the real star for music sales were in digital singles, up 5.1 percent from last year to 1.3 billion tracks sold.

We’ve pasted some highlights from the industry report below:

  • Overall album sales (including albums and track equivalent album sales) were down 1.8 percent compared to 2011.
  • Total album sales were down 4.4 percent in 2012 with sales totaling 316.0 million units compared to 330.6 million in 2011.
  • Ten albums sold more than one million units in 2012.
  • The ]country genre showed the greatest gains in 2012, with sales up 4.1 percent compared to 2011. Rock, which continues to be the biggest genre, was up 1.4 percent vs. 2011.
  • Country also saw a 38 percent gain in digital album sales in 2012 vs. 2011, the largest increase of any genre in the digital album format.
  • For the fifth consecutive year, more vinyl albums were purchased than any other year in the history of Nielsen SoundScan.
    • In 2012, vinyl record album sales reached 4.6 million in sales, breaking the previous record of 3.9 million LP album sales in 2011.
    • Sixty-seven percent of all vinyl albums purchases came from an independent music store during 2012.
    • Vinyl album sales in 2012 were up 19 percent compared to 2011 and accounted for 1.4 percent of all album sales and 2.3 percent of all physical album sales.
  • For the second consecutive year, Columbia Records ends the year with the largest market share among all label groups with a 9.05 percent album label share.

Music button image via italianestro/Shutterstock

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