New figures released by the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) confirm that UK music fans are the numero uno, mad-for-it music buyers in the world, with each tune-loving Brit buying on average 3.2 CDs per person per year.
The announcement comes after the UK record industry announced its best ever year for album sales, with British-signed newcomers the Scissor Sisters and Dad-pleasing rocksters Keane topping the album charts in 2004.
The figures confirm that the UK rules the sound waves with each resident buying on average 3.2 units in 2004, followed by the USA (2.8), Germany (2.2), France (2.1) and Japan (2.0).
Incredibly, the UK releases around 26,000 albums per year – second only to the US in the number of releases – with the UK market recording an overall 3.0% increase in volume sales over 2004, helped by a robust albums market.
With a record 174.6 million units sold, the UK CD albums market continued to outperform its international counterparts in 2004, growing by 4.5%.
These latest statistics follow recent BPI research showing 55.4% of the UK population between 12 and 74 shelled out for at least one album last year.
After a massive increase in online and offline unauthorised access in recent years and doomsayers lining up to predict the end of record companies, this represents a significant achievement for the UK recorded music industry.
It also raises questions about recent BPI lawsuits against alleged P2P file-swappers and the promotional role the networks may be playing.
BPI Chairman Peter Jamieson says: “The strength of the UK market in the face of worldwide decline is a testament to the skills and courage of UK record companies who have never stopped taking risks in signing and developing some of the best talent in the world.
Improving prospects for recorded music internationally is also good news for the UK since after the US we remain the world’s biggest exporter of music.”
Jamieson added: “The UK is a nation of music lovers, so it’s not surprising to see the UK at the top of this list. A slew of great new British artists have met UK music fans’ demand for great music.”
The growth in digital sales has played a major part in helping the global music business tackle its five year slump, with 200 million downloads sold in the world’s four leading digital markets (US, UK, France and Germany) last year.
The arrival of high-profile legitimate digital music services such as iTunes helped lift UK single-track sales by 4.0% in 2004 with 5.7 million downloads sold, breathing life into the British singles market.
With album bundles and sales of digital EPs also doing good business in the UK, the Official UK Charts Company estimate that the total UK market for downloads topped 9 million units in 2004.
Peter Jamieson commented: “The main choice today’s music fan now has to make is whether to get music legally or illegally. As these figures show, more and more music fans are now making the right choice and helping make great British music.”
These trend-bucking figures reflect the UK’s huge enthusiasm for music, and although the industry must be chuffed with the growth of legally downloaded music, we wonder what impact the exponential growth of broadband in the UK may have on future sales.