Digital music rocks in Blighty

Sales of downloaded singles beat disc sales

LONDON — Sales of downloads outstripped physical singles sales in the U.K. in the last week of 2004, it was revealed today, as the British music industry hailed a record year for album sales.

Year-end retail sales figures, announced by record companies’ trade association the British Phonographic Industry, state that album sales grew by 2.6% on the previous year to reach a new high of 163.4 million sales. That was driven, according to the BPI, by new UK-signed talent such as Keane and American band Scissor Sisters (whose eponymous album was the top seller in the U.K. last year). In fact, 13 of the year’s top 20 albums were by UK-signed acts, while half of the top 10 were debuts.

Legal download sales increased to 5.7 million tracks during the year, prompting a renewed belief in the demand for singles, while DVD sales continued to rocket – up 47% on the previous year. BPI chairman Peter Jamieson said: “These figures show that the investment by UK record companies in new British music is paying off. Despite huge competition for consumer spending and the ever-present threat of piracy, music is more popular than ever with the British public.”

And commenting on the final week of 2004 when download sales were 312,000 compared to 282,000 physical singles, Jami-eson added: “While many high street stores were closed for the bank holidays, online download sites are open 24/7. To that extent, you could say it was a blip, but it’s an important milestone in the growth of download sales and a sign of things to come.”

With Scissor Sisters topping album sales, U2’s track Vertigo was the biggest selling download, Band Aid 20 recorded the top selling single and the DVD of Live Aid was the most popular DVD.