By Marcus Leach

A fourth successive record year for singles and growing consumer confidence in digital albums could not offset a further decline in overall UK music sales, new Official Charts Company figures released by the BPI confirmed.

Combined sales of digital and physical albums fell overall by 5.6% to 113.2m in 2011. Digital album sales rose 26.6% to 26.6m, while sales of albums on CD declined 12.6% year- on-year to 86.2m in total.

The CD remains the favoured format for UK album buyers in 2011, accounting for 76.1% of total sales compared to a 23.5% market share for digital and 0.3% for vinyl. Consumer appetite for digital album downloads has continued to grow, however, with 15 albums selling more than 100,000 digital copies in 2011. Sales of vinyl LPs rose by well over a third (43.7%) during 2011 to 337,000, their highest tally since 2005.

The UK singles market went from strength to strength in 2011, with sales smashing all-time records for the fourth straight year in succession. Total singles sales increased 10.0% overall to 177.9m in 2011, with the vast majority (99.3%) sold as digital tracks and bundles. 1.1m CD singles were sold in 2011, representing just 0.6% of the total. All of the top 20 best-selling singles of 2011 sold more than 500,000 copies apiece.

In excess of 1.0m albums and 5.7m singles were downloaded in the last week of 2011 alone — the biggest week ever for digital sales of both formats as consumers flocked to redeem music vouchers received as Christmas gifts.

“It has been another record year for digital singles, but the most encouraging news of the year is the strong backing consumers are giving to the digital album format," Geoff Taylor, BPI Chief Executive, said.

"British music fans understand that the album remains the richest way to connect with an artist’s work. Digital developments grab the headlines, but the CD remains hugely popular with consumers, accounting for three-quarters of album sales. Physical ownership is important to many fans and the CD will be a key element of the market for years to come.

“British artists continue to produce incredible music that resonates at home and around the world. But while other countries take positive steps to protect their creative sector, our Government is taking too long to act on piracy, while weakening copyright to the benefit of US tech giants.

"The UK has already fallen behind Germany as a music market. Unless decisive action is taken in 2012, investment in music could fall again — a creative crunch that will destroy jobs and mean the next Adele may not get her chance to shine on the world stage.

“The spine-tingling performance by Adele at The BRIT Awards 2011 fired the starting gun on her incredible and well-deserved year of success. Her achievements are phenomenal — the biggest-selling album this century, the best seller of 2011 by miles, her debut album also making the year-end top five, not to mention her fantastic success overseas.

“Led by Adele, Jessie J, Coldplay, Ed Sheeran and others, records by British artists in 2011 achieved both critical and commercial success both at home and around the world. But the challenge of sustaining this performance against a backdrop of chronic piracy means that Government action remains absolutely crucial for British artists and their labels.”

The incredible domestic chart success achieved by Adele’s 21 and 19 capped a vintage year for British artists in the UK albums market — 5 of the top 10 selling artist albums in 2011 were from British acts.

Adele’s 21 was by far the biggest selling album of 2011, ending the year with 3.8m copies sold — more than double the 1.8m sales achieved by 2010’s top album, Take That’s Progress. 21 became the highest-selling album of the 21st Century, achieving more sales in a single calendar year than any other album in British chart history.

2011 ended with Adele’s debut album 19 in fourth place in the artist album charts, alongside top 10 placings for Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto (No.5), Jessie J’s Who You Are (No.8) and Ed Sheeran’s + (No.9).

Adele also bagged two places in the 2011 year-end singles chart. The recorded and live performance of Someone Like You - recorded at The BRIT Awards 2011 — together sold 1.2m copies to become the top-selling single of 2011 overall, with Rolling In The Deep also ending the year at No.9. Jessie J ft Bob’s Price Tag was the UK’s fourth highest placed single of 2011 with Ed Sheeran’s The A Team finishing at No.8.

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