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UK album sales shrank, digital downloads grew in 2011

UK album sales shrank, digital downloads grew in 2011


Despite a sizable increase in digital downloads this year, total UK album sales fell 6 percent. Singles, which are overwhelmingly sold as downloads, grew 10 percent in 2011.

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Despite some high points, it wasn't a great year for the UK music industry. About 27 percent more albums were sold in digital format compared to 2010, but it wasn't enough to offset the drop in CD sales — overall, 6 percent fewer albums were sold in 2011 than 2010. CD sales have been declining steadily over the past five years, but the format still makes up over 75 percent of albums. Singles, however, are selling better than ever. Overwhelmingly sold as digital downloads, they rose 10 percent this year. LP sales still make up a small portion of album share, but cassettes, MiniDiscs, and some other niche formats dropped by half this year, making up a total 0.0 percent of sales.

The British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) blames piracy for the decline in album sales, claiming that "while other countries take positive steps to protect their creative sector, our Government is taking too long to act on piracy, while weakening copyright to the benefit of US tech giants." It's also possible, however, that the way people buy music is shifting to become more song-focused, as the rise in singles sales suggests. The report also doesn't appear to take into account online music services like Spotify, which added 1.5 million paid subscribers worldwide this year. The music industry might not take this as good news, however — over 200 labels recently pulled their music from streaming services, arguing that the revenue from them doesn't make up for lost song and album sales.