LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - British soul singer Adele and flamboyant pop singer Lady Gaga have helped the U.S. music industry stage a modest comeback after a decade of decline.
According to data released on Wednesday by tracking firm Nielsen SoundScan, overall album sales rose 3.6 percent to 221.5 million units during the first half of 2011, the first increase since 2004.
While it is too early to judge if the trend will last through the year, an annual increase would be only the second in 11 years.
To be sure, the year got off to a rough start, with overall weekly sales hitting record lows several times. But Adele and Lady Gaga have restored some hope to an industry battered by piracy, label retrenchment and the recession.
Adele sold 2.5 million copies of her second album "21" in the 19 weeks after it went on sale in late February. It spent 10 nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1 and never dipped below No. 3.
"21" easily outpaced Lady Gaga's second effort, "Born This Way," which has sold 1.5 million copies -- albeit after only six weeks. But Lady Gaga's sales slumped after a record-breaking first week when it sold 1.1 million copies with help from a 99 cent promotion on Amazon.com.
"Born this Way" currently ranks at No. 12 on the latest weekly chart, while "21" is at No. 2.
Adele's success has been powered by her chart-topping hit single "Rolling in the Deep," the best selling digital track so far this year with 4.1 million downloads.
The title track of Lady Gaga's album was No. 3 with 2.9 million units, just behind perky pop singer Katy Perry's "E.T." with 3 million units.
While Lady Gaga has been ubiquitous on the worldwide promotional trail in a staggering array of colorful costumes, Adele has adopted a relatively low-key approach for her confessional album. She recently postponed the remaining nine dates of her sold-out tour of mid-sized North American venues because of throat problems.
The success of "21" revived sales of Adele's 2008 debut, "19," which yielded two Grammy Awards including best new artist. It sold 341,000 copies during the first half to rank as the top-selling "catalog" release among albums that were distributed more than 18 months ago. Its total sales stand at 1.2 million copies.
The third-biggest selling artist so far this year is another soulful British act, the folk revivalists Mumford & Sons, who have sold 982,000 copies of their 2009 debut "Sigh No More," thanks in part to attention-grabbing performances at the Grammys and the Coachella music festival in California. Its total sales are currently 1.6 million.
Country singer Jason Aldean's "My Kinda Party" (763,000) and pop/R&B singer Bruno Mars' "Doo-Wops & Hooligans" (686,000) rounded out the top five.
More than 40 years after their breakup, the Beatles managed to top one chart during the first half. Their 1969 album "Abbey Road" was the No. 1 vinyl release, selling 20,200 copies.
(Reporting by Dean Goodman; editing by Bob Tourtellotte)
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