Digital music sales outperform physical alternatives for the first time in the UK; CDs hit the gym in desperate attempt to maintain sex appeal

Digital music sales outperform physical alternatives for the first time in the UK; CDs hit the gym in desperate attempt to maintain sex appeal

Well la dee da. Look who’s getting some benefit out of their generally reluctant acceptance of 21st-century technology — the music industry, that’s who. You might recall a few news headlines from this past January alluding to the fact that overall album sales in the US actually increased in 2011, for the first time since 2004. As a deeper look at the facts indicates, the increase wasn’t due to a miraculous and widespread epiphany concerning the supposed immorality of illegal file sharing, nor was it due to the ongoing resurgence of vinyl records; nope, as you might expect, living in a culture where screens of various types are basically an extra human appendage, the increase can be attributed primarily to the rise in digital album sales, which increased 19.5% in 2011 to a record 103.1 million. Digital albums accounted for 50.3% of all album sales last year, making it the first time that their physical counterparts were overtaken as the majority.

That was in the US. It was only a matter of time before our friends across the pond took a break from their chimney-sweeping to join in on the trend. According to CMU, for the first quarter of 2012, digital music sales accounted for 55.5% of recorded music income in the UK, making it the first time for them that revenue from digital sales outperformed that of their physical siblings. To be sure, CD sales, both in the UK and the US, have continued to decline, but the increase in digital sales is marked, as Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive of the BPI, the organization representing British major and independent record labels, points out: “This is a significant milestone in the evolution of the music business. UK record labels have embraced digital to their core, supporting innovation and licensing more new online and mobile services than any other country. As a result, the industry’s prospects for growth look brighter than for several years.”

Taylor then added: “We will need to see this trend repeated for several quarters to say we have turned the corner – demand for physical CDs remains strong in the UK, especially in Q4. However, the creativity, investment and digital expertise of the British music industry point the way forward for growth in the UK economy.” That’s an unusually optimistic reaction for a large-scale music organization. Can’t we just stick to trillion-dollar lawsuits and ominous predictions about the death of the music industry? This is making me uncomfortable.

• BPI:

[Photo: Ken Segall]

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