The pain continued in the first six weeks of 2011, with album sales off 11% year-on-year, and no sign of a respite - but the last six weeks have seen modest but consistent gains over 2010.
Whether it is because of a dip in illegal downloading, a more stable economy freeing up disposable income or an improved release slate is not clear, but what is clear is that the situation has improved.
After 12 weeks, SoundScan estimates year-to-date album sales at 71.19m, compared to same stage sales of 75.11m in 2010.
And, after stalling in 2010, singles/tracks sales are rising again, with 314.6m thus far in 2011, up from 289.7m last year. For the purpose of overall comparison, 10 singles sales equate to one album sale, on which basis 2011 sales amount to 102.65m, just 1.37% below same stage 2010 sales of 104.08m.
In the latest frame, the biggest individual contribution came from Brown's fourth album F.A.M.E., on initial sales of 270,000. Six other debuts pepper the Top 10 this week: Jennifer Hudson posts her second straight number two album, with I Remember Me on sales of 165,000 copies.
More remarkably, The Strokes are stuck at number four for the third time in a row, thanks to 89,000 sales of fourth album Angles, while gospel favourite Kirk Franklin is back in the Top 10 for the first time since 2002, with Hello Fear in at number five (87,000 sales), a vast improvement over 2006's Songs For The Storm (number 74) and his most recent album, The Fight Of My Life (number 33).
The digital charity compilation Songs For Japan sold 68,000 copies for sixth spot; Panic At The Disco take seventh place on sales of 64,000 copies of Vices & Virtues; and R&B singer Bobby V's fourth Top 10 album Fly On The Wall lands at number 10 (38,000 sales).
Three weeks after lining up in the top three positions on the chart, albums by Adele, Mumford & Sons and Marsha Ambrosius have shuffled lower - but remain the top three albums by UK acts, and in the same order.
Adele's 21 dips 1-3on sales of 96,000; Mumford & Sons' Sigh No More dips 5-8 (39,000 sales) and Ambrosius' Late Nights & Early Mornings falls 10-16 (25,000 sales). All three have singles climbing the Hot 100 - Adele's Rolling In The Deep revives 26-17, while notching its millionth sale; Mumford & Sons' The Cave lifts 61-59; and Ambrosius' Far Away climbs 92-84, while also edging up 10-8 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart.
Duran Duran's All You Need Is Now surfaced briefly last December, when it peaked at number 119 on digital sales alone. Now available on CD, it is their 17th chart album in a 27 year chart career, and re-enters at number 29, beating the number 36 peak of their last album, Red Carpet Massacre.
Meanwhile, Lady GaGa's six week lock on the Hot 100 is over, with Born This Way sliding to number four. Taking over at the top, E.T. is the fourth single off Katy Perry's second album, Teenage Dream and also the fourth number one.
Teenage Dream is only the ninth album in chart history to spawn four number ones but the fifth by a female solo artist, following Whitney Houston's Whitney, Paula Abdul's Forever Your Girl, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 and Mariah Carey's self-titled album.
The hard bit is getting five number one songs off an album - it's something only Michael Jackson's Bad has managed thus far.