Universal Music Group Held Top Market Share Again In 2012
January 4, 2013

Nielsen SoundScan has released its data on music sales in 2012 and Universal Music Group remained the #1 label once again, with the largest market share last year. Universal claimed 32.4 percent of the market share (counting album sales plus digital track equivalent albums), with Sony Music making up 30.25 percent of the market share (up from 29.29 percent in 2011). EMI Music's sales in the fourth quarter of 2012 were counted towards UMG, however Billboard notes that even without the EMI sales figures, Universal would have outpaced Sony last year.

Warner Music Group held 19.15 percent of the market share, almost flat from 19.13 percent in 2011. Counting its sales in the first three quarters of 2012, before the UMG deal closed, EMI Music made up 6.78 percent of the market. Independent labels added up to 11.42 percent of the music market, but Billboard reports that "if you count market share by label ownership, the indie market share is much larger -- more than 30 percent."

Overall music purchases were up by 3.1 percent in 2012 to 1.66 billion units, thanks to digital music growth. Digital album sales were up 14.1 percent last year to 118 million, with digital track sales up 5.1 percent, surpassing 1.3 billion. However, sales of albums and digital track equivalent albums fell last year by 1.8 percent compared to 2011, to 450 million. Physical CD sales declined by 13.5 percent in 2012 to 193 million.

Every musical genre saw a decline in music sales in 2012, except for Country (up 4.2 percent) and Rock (up two percent). Jazz and Classical saw the biggest dropoffs, with 26.2 percent and 20.5 percent declines in sales, respectively.

"Overall music purchases surpassed 1.65 billion units in 2012, up 3.1 percent vs. the previous record high set in 2011, driven by digital music sales, which continue be a key growth element within the market," says David Bakula, SVP Client Development, Nielsen. "Digital Album sales are up 14.1 percent and Digital Track sales are up 5.1 percent, but despite being down 12.8 percent, physical is still the dominant album format."

"The big artist stories of the year are Adele and Taylor Swift," continues Bakula. "Adele’s album, 21, is the first album ever to be the top seller of the year for two consecutive years and Taylor Swift’s Red has sold more than 3.1 million copies in only 10 weeks, debuting with the highest weekly sales of any title since 2002."

As reported yesterday, Adele's 21 finished 2012 as the best selling album in the U.S. for the second straight year. The effort sold 4.41 million copies in 2012, after finishing 2011 with 5.82 million sold. The feat also means that for the first time since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking music sales in 1991, the same album finishes as the United States' best-seller for a second year. Also in 2012, 21 aptly became the 21st album in the SoundScan era to sell 10 million copies.

The year's second-biggest selling album is Taylor Swift's Red, with 3.11 million units sold. One Direction's debut album, Up All Night, is 2012's third-biggest set with 1.62 million sold. At #4 for the year is Mumford & Sons' Babel, which shifted 1.46 million copies. Justin Bieber saw his latest album, Believe, become the #6 best-selling effort of 2012 with 1.34 million.

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Mark Adams
San Francisco

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