Unstoppable rise of the downloads continues, according to new figures

Emeli Sande has been nominated for four Brit Awards. Picture: PA
Emeli Sande has been nominated for four Brit Awards. Picture: PA
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UK ALBUM sales continued to slump last year as music lovers snubbed CDs in favour of digital downloads, singles and streaming services, new figures show.

Official sales of more than 100 million albums in 2012 mark more than a decade of decline for the format, which is dominated, mainly, by British pop acts including Scots star Emeli Sandé, Adele and Coldplay.

But the number of singles bought or listened to on streaming sites, such as Spotify, continues to soar with the popularity of urban and R&B acts, such as David Guetta and YouTube sensation PSY.

The annual Official Charts Company figures were released yesterday by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). They showed album sales of 100.5 million, down 11.2 per cent on 2011.

Of these, two-thirds were in CD format, but these sales were down by 19 per cent and downloads, accounting for a third, were up 14.8 per cent. Only 0.4 per cent were vinyl sales.

The top ten is dominated by uncontroversial British pop, such as Sandé, who had the best-selling album, followed by Adele and then Ed Sheeran.

Single sales, meanwhile, continue to rise and were up six per cent to 188.6 million, with 99.6 per cent of these sold digitally.

Unlike albums, the best- selling singles are more likely to be overseas urban and R&B stars, with the top-seller of 2012 the track Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye ft Kimbra. Only two British artists made the top ten singles of 2012 – X Factor winner James Arthur and The Voice judge Jessie J.

Music fans are buying fewer albums because these may have a track or two they do not like, when the digital era means they can pick and choose which tracks they want to download.

The figures also show music fans streamed audio tracks more than 3.7 billion times during 2012, with Somebody That I Used To Know, Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen and Titanium by David Guetta ft Sia the three most-streamed tracks of the year.

The year would have been far worse without the boost it got from sales in the last week of 2012, when millions download albums and singles.

This led to a record week with 1.3 albums and 5.6 million singles downloads.

Geoff Taylor, BPI chief executive, said: “2012 was an encouraging year for UK artists and for music’s digital future. Digital albums grew strongly and singles sales hit a new record.”

BPI chairman Tony Wads­worth said: “British artists continue to resonate strongly with music fans in their home territory.

“The domestic success of albums from Mumford & Sons and One Direction has been replicated abroad – both British acts have achieved massive success in the US.”

Meanwhile, a separate report by the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) found digital sales of music, games and films have broken the £1 billion barrier for the first time.

Research shows shoppers spent £1.033bn – an 11.4 per cent rise – on downloads, with video games accounting for more than half that figure.

Physical sales of CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray and video-games still account for more than three-quarters of the entertainment market, but sales fell by 17.6 per cent compared with 2011.