UK digital music downloads pass physical CD & record sales

David Price
5 June, 2012
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Physical music sales took another step towards the grave today, with the news that sales of records and CD have been overtaken by digital music for the first time in the UK.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has released sales figures for the first three months of 2012, indicating that 55.5 percent of the total £155.8m ($246.6m) revenue came from digital downloads. That’s a digital figure of £86.6m ($137m) for the quarter, a year-on-rise of almost 25 percent.

Digital continues to lag behind CDs in album sales – partly down to the so-called ’50 quid man’, the archetypal well-off 40-something who goes into music retailers every now and then and buys a handful of albums at once. But digital is catching up here too.

Paul Williams, head of business analysis at Music Week, explains: “Generally, the older audience prefers to buy the physical format. That doesn’t mean everyone, there are some who will download.

“The CD still makes up the majority of album sales in the UK and that’s going to remain the case for some time.”

However, Williams conceded that downloaded albums are seeing significant growth. And for two quarters in a row, actual revenues from downloaded albums have been higher than that from digital singles. Digital albums accounted for almost a third of all album sales in the UK, up from 23.6 percent last year.

Digital music sales surpassed physical music sales in the US last year, while in Australia the data is yet to be confirmed but The Age estimates a similar path.

“In 2010, a little more than 30 per cent of legal music purchases in Australia were digital, a 32 per cent increase on 2009, generating $104,558,401, while physical formats dropped by 24 per cent in the same year, generating $279,456,781,” The Age said in January.




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