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UK: digital music surges 24%, not enough to offset CD losses

updated 10:25 am EST, Mon January 2, 2012

UK shows online music growing fast

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) published data showing the rapid rise of digital music on Monday while simultaneously making its familiar complaints about the perceived effect of piracy. Downloads from iTunes and similar stores grew a fast 24 percent in 2011 over 2010 to 26.6 million. As in past years, the tally wasn't yet fast enough overcome the decline of the CD market, which dropped 13 percent to 86.2 million and led to an ultimate six percent drop in album sales overall versus last year.

As is often the case, the BPI tried to blame piracy for the decline, calling a "backdrop of chronic piracy" a major issue and hoping to exploit fears over employment and the economy to enact policy. If the UK didn't take "decisive action" in 2012 to curb piracy, it would see people lose their jobs, the industry alliance said.

Both the BPI and the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) succeeded in getting a proposed notice-and-notice system in place in the UK, where those suspected of pirating material would get notifications but, unlike France's Hadopi three-strikes law, wouldn't be forcefully disconnected from the Internet after a set number of discoveries. Both of the British groups have made clear that they would prefer action closer to the French model, even with known false positives.

Single sales data collected by the agency, however, supported counterarguments that it wasn't piracy but a change in the approach to music listening itself leading to CD sales declines. Singles had almost doubled since 2007 to 177.9 million, 98 percent of which are now through stores like iTunes. Many of these listeners are less likely to be buying full albums as they either only wanted the one song from the start or go on to a streaming service to check the full album and decide whether or not it's worth a full purchase.

Labels have regularly been criticized for continuing to focus on whole album sales as well as not fully addressing the revenue coming from sources like Spotify. Concerns exist that the industry sees itself as entitled to the peak sales it saw in the late 1990s, when CDs were usually the only option, and has blamed piracy when fundamental shifts in technology and listening habits may be the real causes. [via BBC]

by MacNN Staff



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