Country Sales Down in 2013, but Country Artists Increasingly Prominent

Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Blake Shelton Among Top Sellers

Although America’s appetite for recorded music increased in 2013, actual sales of such music continue to drop. That’s according to Nielsen Entertainment, whose Nielsen SoundScan and Nielsen BDS services monitor record sales and radio airplay and streaming, respectively.

Overall music streams in 2013 — gathered from such sources as AOL, Cricket, Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody and Slacker — are calculated at 118.1 billion, a jump of 32 percent over the year before.

But overall music sales — counting albums, singles, music videos and digital tracks — were down 6.3 percent, from 1,661 million to 1,556 million units.

Overall albums sales — including track equivalent albums (TEA) — slumped from 450 million in 2012 to 415.3 million in 2013.

Country album sales slipped 10.7 percent from their 2012 level, but Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line and Blake Shelton were among the best-selling album artists irrespective of format.

And there were more million-selling albums across all formats this year than last: 13 vs. 10.

In calculating the 10 best-selling albums of 2013, Nielsen SoundScan compiled two charts. One is based on the sale of actual albums in the CD, digital and vinyl formats combined, and the other embraces the actual albums-plus-TEA.

Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience topped both categories. In the actual albums listing, Bryan’s Crash My Party ranked No. 3 (with 1,521,000 copies sold), Florida Georgia Line’s Here’s to the Good Times was at No. 6 (1,350,000) and Shelton’s Based on a True Story landed at No. 9 (1,109,000).

In the albums-plus-TEA category, Here’s to the Good Times was No. 6 (with a total of 2,278,000 copies sold) and Crash My Party was No. 8 (1,930,000).

Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” — which ranked No. 4 with 4,691,000 units sold — was the only country title to make the Top 10 best-selling digital songs. Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” crowned the list, with 6,498,000 sold.

Among the past year’s 10 best-selling artists, Bryan was No. 2 with a total of 2,740,000 copies sold (this includes sales of all his different albums) while Shelton was No. 5, with 1,720,000. Timberlake topped this list, too, with 3,445,000 albums sold.

The 10 most-played country songs on radio, in descending order, were Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel,” Lady Antebellum’s “Downtown,” Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart,” Florida Georgia Line’s “Get Your Shine On,” Brett Eldredge’s “Don’t Ya,” The Band Perry’s “Done,” Randy Houser’s “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight,” Easton Corbin’s “All Over the Road,” Jake Owen’s “Anywhere With You” and Shelton’s “Sure Be Cool If You Did.”

“Cruise” was the only country song to make the Top 10 list of songs played on satellite and network radio. It ranked No. 5.

Country artists dominated the most-played music videos cluster. Within this Top 10 listing were Shelton’s “Boys ’Round Here” (No. 3), Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart” (No. 6), Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” (No. 7), Hunter Hayes“I Want Crazy” (No. 8), Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel” (No. 9) and Carrie Underwood’s “See You Again” (No. 10).

“Blurred Lines” headed the list.

Shania Twain’s Come On Over, which ranks No. 2 on sales of 15,547,000 units, is the only country album to make the Top 10 best-selling album list of the SoundScan era. The SoundScan monitoring system, which counts actual sales scanned at cash registers, was introduced in 1991.

Coming in just ahead of Come On Over is Metallica’s self-titled album, which has sold 15,948,000 copies since 1991.

Garth Brooks is the best-selling artist of the SoundScan era, having sold 69,424,000 of his various albums. The Beatles come in second with 65,111,000.

Three other country artists also made this exalted list: George Strait, No. 6 (44,751,000 copies), Tim McGraw, No. 8 (41,844,000) and Alan Jackson, No. 9 (40,361,000).

Taylor Swift’s Red, is the No. 6 best-selling digital album of the SoundScan era. It has moved 1,135,000 copies in this format. Topping the list is Adele’s 21, with 3,009,000 units sold.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to