Page last updated at 04:10 GMT, Thursday, 7 January 2010

Downloads up as album sales drop

Susan Boyle
Susan Boyle's I Dreamed A Dream was the biggest-selling album in the UK

Album sales continued to fall last year, despite being boosted by a growth in digital downloads, figures show.

Statistics released by trade body the BPI showed overall album sales dropped by 3.5% in 2009 to 128.9 million, the fifth year in a row they have fallen.

But the fall was eased by a 56.1% rise in album downloads to 16.1 million, now accounting for one in eight sold.

The news comes days after weekly sales of singles - on CD and download - recorded an all-time high.

An unprecedented 4.22 million singles were sold in the last week of 2009 - more than in any previous week. The sales boom was put down to the use of new MP3 players received as Christmas presents, as music fans downloaded a wide range of tracks, old and new.

Across the entire year, singles sales increased by 32.7% to a record 152 million, with 98% of those being digital downloads.

And downloads of entire albums have helped cushion the declining sales of albums on CD - down a fifth since 2004 - the figures from the BPI showed.

Disappeared retailers

The BPI said the album market was aided by a "healthy stream" of releases from artists such as Susan Boyle, Lady Gaga, Michael Buble, JLS and Robbie Williams.

However, downloads are not generally as profitable to the industry as physical products. And despite the healthy state of singles sales, these do not usually generate significant profits for record companies, who look to album sales to recoup the investments they make in up-and-coming bands and singers.

To add to the woes of the sector, two of the best known music retailers - Woolworths and Zavvi - collapsed last year.

BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor said: "Despite difficult trading conditions and the ever-present competition from illegal downloading, UK music sales remained relatively resilient during 2009.

"While sales of physical CDs continue to trend downwards, music fans are clearly responding to the explosive growth of digital retailers and outlets selling and streaming music in the UK. 2009's record singles result is clearly encouraging."

Kim Bayley, director general of the Entertainment Retailers Association, said: "2009 started on a low note after the collapse of Woolworths and Zavvi, but entertainment retailers across the board worked with their suppliers to end the year with a far better result than anyone had expected."

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