After a decade of declining sales, Adele and Lady Gaga have led the record industry to the first increase in overall record sales since 2004. According to data released by Nielsen SoundScan, total album sales have gone up by one percent in the first half of 2011 in comparison to the same period last year. It's a fairly minor change, but certainly a positive sign after years of double digit percentage drops.
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Adele's 21 has been the year's biggest album to date, with over 2.5 million sold since it was released in late February. The disc has been a consistent best-seller – it has spent 10 nonconsecutive weeks at Number One and has never ranked lower than Number Three on the albums chart. It is also the year's best-selling digital album, with 992,000 copies sold to date, along with 4.1 million digital sales for the single "Rolling in the Deep." (21 is expected to soon surpass Eminem's Recovery as the best-selling digital album in history.) By comparison, Gaga's sales have been concentrated on a record-setting premiere week in which her latest record Born This Way sold 1.1 million copies.
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Adele also rules in catalog sales. Her 2008 debut 19 has sold 341,000 copies in the first six months of the year, boosting its overall sales tally to 1.2 million. Catalog sales in general account for the largest portion of the 2011 sales spike. Catalog album sales went up by seven percent, led by older works by recent artists such as Adele and Miranda Lambert as well as classic acts such as Journey and Credence Clearwater Revival.
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Nielsen SoundScan's data also reveals that sales of vinyl LPs are up by 41 percent over the first half of 2010. These sales account for only 1.9 million of the overall 221.5 million albums sold in the first six months of 2011, but it is a sign that the format is enjoying a significant resurgence.