UK Music Downloads Exceed 500,000 Tracks Sold

Figures from the Official UK Chart Company demonstrate that the record industry can’t have its cake and eat it: although paid music downloads this year have just broken the 500,000 barrier, CD single sales are down. Something has to give somewhere, and music lovers are turning to the convenience of downloads whilst buying correspondingly less singles.

The bestselling download in the UK so far this year is “2,000 Miles” by Coldplay.

Looking at the quarterly totals for January/March, the sales value of CD singles is down by 32% on last year, whilst CD albums are down nearly 3% this year, though the picture for the entire last 12 months is more encouraging.

Surprisingly, that great love of DJs, the 12” single has suffered a dip of 14%, possibly due to the slump in interest in trance – but bafflingly, 7” singles are up 47% on last year. Expect a retro CD single sales peak in about 2021.

Once iTunes launches in the UK and the new Napster finds its feet, we expect that CD singles will be affected even more dramatically, and music labels will need to find some way to make singles more compelling to the public to avoid cannibalising the market.

The British Phonographic Industry is upbeat about the state of the market, expecting great things from DVD music sales and “truetones” (ringtones that sound just like the track they’ve sampled) – no doubt something to do with the 3.8% increase in CD album sales that the year to March 2004 saw above 2003.

BPI Quarterly Market Review

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?