Digital Now A Fifth Of UK Music Sales But 76 Percent Of Downloads ‘Illegal’

2010 was the year the music industry got its way, when the graduated-response method of dissuading piracy was adopted by parliament.

But none of those measures have yet been implemented. So 2010 remained a banner year for UK piracy, according to the new Digital Music Nation report from labels’ BPI umbrella…

— 1.2 billion tracks downloaded illegally (source: Harris Interactive) – retail value: £984,000 (source: BPI).
— That’s 76 percent of all downloads (source: BPI).
— P2P use was up 7% (source: Harris Interactive).

If Digital Economy Act measures get implemented, labels will have recourse against illegal P2P, the primary unauthorised channel. They spent the rest of this year turning their attention to websites which host songs without authorisation.

And now they seem set to point the finger at Google – the BPI’s report says 58 percent of unauthorised downloaded “used Google (NSDQ: GOOG) to direct them to free music” and: “On average, 17 of the first 20 Google results for singles and 14 of 20 search results for albums were links to known illegal sites.”

Piracy may still be occurring, but this was also the best ever year for digital sales – the UK saw nothing like the kind of digital slowdown being seen in the U.S. Citing “extraordinary growth“, the BPI actually acknowledges “the singles market has been revitalised” and hails “impressive headway” made by digital album sales. About 99 percent of singles slaes are now digital.

At £370 million, total digital sales hit nearly 20 percent of the total market. Though subscription music services still contribute a relatively small amount to the pie – 6.2 percent of revenue.