Album sales figures are still grim--roughly half what they were in 2000--but the music industry got a rare bit of good news yesterday when Nielsen SoundScan released word that album sales for the first half of 2011 were up 1 percent over the same period last year, the first such uptick since 2004.
Locally, Seattle's Sub Pop got some encouraging news, too: Fleet Foxes' Helplessness Blues, released May 3, was in a statistical tie with the Beatles' Abbey Road--a perennial vinyl favorite that moved 35,000 LPs last year--as the biggest-selling vinyl album for the first half of the year. Both records were credited with selling 20,200 LPs, but a spokesperson for Nielsen says that, while they will only release vinyl numbers rounded to the nearest 100, Abbey Road did outsell Helplessness by a measly five LPs. Vinyl sales represent roughly 10 percent of the 209,000 total units Helplessness has shipped in the U.S. By comparison, Death Cab for Cutie's new record, Codes and Keys, released May 31, has sold 177,000 units so far, 3,700 of them on vinyl.
Fleet Foxes' self-titled full-length debut was a significant vinyl seller as well. It sold 12,700 LPs in 2009, the year it was released, and has sold 40,000 copies of vinyl to date, accounting for about 10 percent of the 411,000 total copies of the album sold in the U.S.
Overall, vinyl sales continued its uphill climb to 1.9 million units, compared to 1.3 million in the first half of 2010. That's an impressive 41 percent jump, but vinyl sales still account for less than 1 percent of overall albums sold (221.5 million).