Another year over, another quantifiable decline for the music industry—a loss of 12.8 percent in total album sales, to be exact, with 2010 seeing 326.2 million albums sold to 2009’s 373.9 million. And while there was an expected dip in physical CD sales, digital track downloads (legal ones) seem to have slowed as well, with barely a one-percent increase over last year’s tally. Of course, that one percent is the difference between 1.16 billion and 1.17 billion, and digital album downloads actually jumped nine percent to 86.3 million overall, but still, the industry isn’t particularly buoyed by those figures—except for the people behind Eminem’s Recovery, which managed to become the year’s top-selling album (at 3.4 million copies) ahead of Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now (3.1 million), Taylor Swift’s Speak Now (3 million), Justin Bieber’s My World 2.0 (2.3 million), and Susan Boyle’s The Gift (1.85 million).
The rest of 2010’s top records included Lady Gaga’s still-in-rotation 2008 debut and albums by Sade, Drake, Usher, and Ke$ha, but the year really belonged to Taylor Swift and Katy Perry—Swift as the year’s top-selling artist overall, since her entire back catalog sold more than 4.4 million copies this year and taught us how to be strong, and Perry because her song “California Gurls” moved around 4.4 million downloads, even though you can just read the title and its chorus will automatically play on repeat in your brain for the next few hours, negating the need to actually own it. Perhaps if the industry could find a way to make money off of that, we wouldn’t be having this annual conversation.