Justin Timberlake scored the top-selling album of 2013 with his "The 20/20 Experience" and Robin Thicke ruled the singles chart with the runaway hit "Blurred Lines," according to year-end sales figures released by Nielsen SoundScan.
But these two sales monarchs presided over a kingdom that continued to erode in significant ways. Timberlake's album sold 2.43 million copies during the year, the only album to top the 2 million mark in 2013 and the lowest figure for the year's biggest-selling album since Nielsen SoundScan started reporting retail sales in 1991.
That's well under last year's bestselling title, Adele's "21," which sold 4.41 million copies during 2012, and less than half what "21" did during its first year of release in 2011 to claim the title that year with 5.82 million copies.
The trend reflected a yearly drop in overall album sales of 8% compared with 2012, from 315.96 million to 289.41 million units. The same trend was felt in the sales of digital songs, with 2013 being the first year in which total sales dropped from the previous year. They slid 6%, from 1.34 billion in 2012 to 1.26 billion last year, SoundScan reports.
In the realm of singles, Thicke's hit, which featured Pharrell and T.I., was the top seller with 6.5 million units, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop" landing not far behind at 6.15 million. But they were the only two songs to cross the 6 million sales mark during the year—a peak that only two dozen other singles have ever reached.
The one bright spot in terms of sales growth was in vinyl, which continues its resurgence, although the slice of the total pie represented by vinyl remains minuscule.
Vinyl album sales increased 33%, up to 6.1 million, from 4.55 million a year earlier. The top-selling vinyl title was Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories," with 49,000 copies.
The rest of the top 10 album sellers, with their sales figures:
Eminem's "The Marshall Mathers LP 2" (No. 2 with sales of 1.73 million), Luke Bryan's "Crash My Party" (No. 3, 1.52 million), Imagine Dragons' "Night Vision" (No. 4, 1.4 million), Bruno Mars' "Unorthodox Jukebox" (No. 5, 1.4 million), Florida Georgia Lines' "Here's to the Good Times" (No. 6, 1.35 million), Drake's "Nothing Was the Same" (No. 7, 1.34 million), Beyonce's "Beyonce" (No. 8, 1.3 million), Blake Shelton's "Based on a True Story" (No. 9, 1.11 million) and Jay Z's "Magna Carta Holy Grail" (No. 10, 1.1 million.)
Beyonce made the top 10 with her surprise release even though it was on the chart for just three weeks before the year ended. And she and hubby Jay Z, Billboard noted, became the first wife-husband pair to post top 10 sellers separately in the same year.
Behind Thicke and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis on the list of the year's bestselling singles are Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" (No. 3, 5.5 million), Florida Georgia Lines' "Cruise" (No. 4, 4.69 million), Lorde's "Royals" (No. 5, 4.42 million), Katy Perry's "Roar" (No. 6, 4.41 million), Pink's "Just Give Me a Reason" featuring Nate Ruess (No. 7, 4.32 million), Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Can't Hold Us" (No. 8, 4.26 million), Bruno Mars' "When I Was Your Man" (No. 9, 3.93 million) and Rihanna's "Stay" featuring Mikky Ekko (No. 10, 3.85 million).
The number of songs that sold more than 1 million downloads during the year continued to slide, dropping from 112 in 2011 to 108 in 2012 to 106 last year. The total crossing the 2 million sales mark also fell, from 41 last year to 38, the same number that hit that plateau two years earlier.
Follow Randy Lewis on Twitter: @RandyLewis2