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Digital music sales grew fast in 2011 – though total album sales were down

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Sales of digital albums over the internet grew by more than a quarter in 2011, new figures have shown.

But even though, BPI figures show, downloaded album sales grew by 26.6% to 26.6m, a 12.6% fall in CD sales, to 86.2m, meant that fewer albums were sold in 2011 than in 2010. In all, some 113.2m albums were sold last year, 5.6% down on the previous year.

Despite the rise of digital, CDs still make up the bulk of the market, with 76.1% of all albums sold in this format. Digital took 23.5%, while vinyl registered only 0.3% of all sales, despite seeing growth of 43.7% to reach 337,000 copies sold in 2011, the highest figure since 2005.

Singles, however, sold strongly and almost all online. Some 99.3% of the record 177.9m singles sold last year digital tracks and bundles. Just 1.1m CD singles were sold – 0.6% of the total. And all of the top 20 best-selling singles of 2011 – led by Adele’s Someone Like You – sold more than 500,000 copies each, according to The Official Charts Company. In the last week alone, more than 1m albums and 5.7m singles were downloaded as consumers cashed in their Christmas music vouchers.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, said, “It has been another record year for digital singles, but the most encouraging news of the year is the strong backing consumers are giving to the digital album format. British music fans understand that the album remains the richest way to connect with an artist’s work.

“Digital developments grab the headlines, but the CD remains hugely popular with consumers, accounting for three-quarters of album sales. Physical ownership is important to many fans and the CD will be a key element of the market for years to come.”

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