Digital Single Sales Double, Albums Stutter In UK For First Half Of ’07

Digital sales of music singles doubled in the UK during the first six months of this year, growing so much that sales are now beginning to offset a decline in physical formats, the UK’s British Phonograph Industry (BPI) representative body said.

Singles: Digital sales grew 49.9 percent from the same period in 2006 to 36.4 million. Some 90.1 percent of all singles are now sold via online or mobile platforms. Digital helped grow the overall singles market by 29 percent.

Albums: Slower growth in albums. Digital sales of 2.1 million helped offset a decline in physical sales by just 23 percent. June saw digital album sales break the 100,000 per week mark – “a sign that digital sales are starting to have a real impact on the albums market.” BPI attributes bonus tracks, videos and digital sleeve artwork as drivers. Sixty million albums were sold in the period, 96.5 percent of them on physical formats. Compilation CD sales increased 2.6 percent. Although CD album sales dipped year-on-year, the industry still sold 32 percent more than it did 10 years ago (57.9 percent this year against 43.7 million in 1997) and has sold 150 million CDs per year for the last four years.

Long tail: Last week, more than 198,000 different titles were sold digitally from the over four million available; the Top 40 accounted for just 12.6 percent of all single downloads.

Vinyl: While CD single sales fell, 7″ sales were up 12.9 percent in the first half. It’s a revival – last year, over a million 7″ singles were sold versus just 200,000 in 2000.

What the BPI’s confusing release does not say, but BBC News does, is that album sales are down 10 percent (6.5 million) from the same period last year and that downloads still only represent between 10 and 20 percent of the overall music market. Indicative of physical sales, in recent weeks, HMV announced a fall in sales alongside more online store plans while high street music retailer Fopp announced it was closing 81 shops.