The Adele Effect: What 2012’s First Quarter Might Have Looked Like Without ’21’

From Billboard Magazine:

The first quarter of 2012 has come to a close and the “Adele Effect” is everywhere. Not only did the singer’s breakthrough album 21 provide the highlights of the Grammy Awards, it helped prop up U.S. recorded music sales, prevented a decline in album sales and kept the first quarter – historically a slow period for new releases – from looking like the graveyard of years past. 21 sold an astounding 2.67 million units in the first quarter (nearly 2 million more than the second-best selling album, Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits) in addition to 4.96 million tracks.

Here are five observations on the first quarter’s recorded music sales as measured by Nielsen SoundScan. Note: First-quarter sales figures represent sales through April 3 and are compared to sales in the same period last year unless otherwise indictated.

1. Adele’s 21 was the difference between a good and mixed quarter. Take out sales of 21 and album sales go from flat to down 3.4%. Take out track sales from 21 and the first quarter’s 6.5% gain in track sales drops to 5.1%. Other titles would have certainly made up for some of the difference had 21 never been released, but Adele’s mainstream success seems to have generated a lot of revenue that otherwise would not have existed.

2. The no. 1 album averaged 229,000 units per week in the first quarter of 2012, up 52% from 151,000 in the same period last year. The reason for the gain was 21, which exceeded 100,000 each week except one (the week ended January 22) and topped the album chart for the first nine weeks of the year. The top-selling album failed to reach 100,000 units six times in the first quarter of 2011.

3. If not for Adele, Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die, Tim McGraw’s Emotional Traffic, Kidz Bop 21 and the David Crowder Band’s Give Us Rest Or (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys]) all would have reached #1 with first-week sales under 100,000 units. In the first quarter of last year, Cake, the Decemberists and Amos Lee all reached #1 without topping 100,000 units.

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