Business News Labels & Publishers

Digital continues to boom, but overall record sales down

By | Published on Friday 6 January 2012


2012 was a bumper year for digital music in the UK, labels trade body the BPI confirmed earlier this week, though overall record sales continued to decline. It was another record breaking year for singles sales which were up 10%, the vast majority, of course, being sold digitally, with the million CD singles shifted over the year accounting for less than one per cent of the singles market. Digital albums also saw significant growth, up 26.6%, though that wasn’t enough to compensate for the continued slump in CD sales, with album sales overall down 5.6% to 113.2 million.

The traditional end of year stats were accompanied by BPI boss Geoff Taylor’s customary “we’re doing great aren’t we, but oooh, those pesky pirates, why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why won’t those government geezers do something about the pesky pirates?” statement. Though, proving even label trade body chiefs can be innovative, the annual ‘government should do more to protect the record industry’ quote also included albeit abstract reference to the Hargreaves Review of UK copyright law, and the concessions labels fear the ongoing post-review consultation will give to Google regarding fair dealing and such like.

But first the “aren’t we great” bit of Taylor’s annual address: “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. 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”.

And now the fist waving bit: “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”.

Quite what the record sales stats published by the BPI this week actually tell us about the current state of the UK record industry isn’t clear, not least because – based, as they are, predominantly on sales data from the Official Charts Company – there was no information on the streaming services, which certainly grew significantly in 2011, and which are seemingly generating the majority of digital revenues in some Northern European markets. Some have also noted that direct-to-fan download sales, by artists operating without a label, and not counted by the OCC, will also not appear in these stats, and while that’s still a small market, it’s growing.

But the headline stat, of decline overall, conflicts with an increased optimism that you saw in some label circles in 2011, though new digital models and non-recordings-based revenues were always going to rescue the traditional music companies, so traditional record sales data is only part of the picture. And, of course, with the aforementioned government copyright consultation now underway, however optimistic label chiefs may be feeling as 2012 begins, the official line needs to be that there is still a potential crisis on the horizon.

Interestingly a rosier picture came out of the US this week, with Nielson and Billboard confirming there was a rise in album sales Stateside for the first time in seven years in 2011, even without new fangled streaming nonsense including in the stats mix. Though it’s possible that was mainly down to America’s love affair with one Adele Adkins.

Anyway, how about we take a look-see at the top ten singles and albums of 2011 courtesy of the diligent counting of the A-Grade GCSE maths dudes over at the Official Charts Company?

Top Ten Singles Of 2011
1. Adele – Someone Like You (Beggars/XL)
2. Maroon 5 feat Christina Aguilera – Moves Like Jagger (Universal/Polydor)
3. LMFAO feat Lauren Bennett & Goonrock – Party Rock Anthem (Universal/Polydor)
4. Jessie J feat BoB – Price Tag (Universal/Lava)
5. Rihanna feat Calvin Harris – We Found Love (Universal/Mercury)
6. Pitbull feat Ne-Yo, Afrojack & Nayer – Give Me Everything (Sony/J)
7. Bruno Mars – Grenade (Warner/Atlantic)
8. Ed Sheeran – The A Team (Warner/Atlantic)
9. Adele – Rolling In The Deep (Beggars/XL)
10. Jennifer Lopez feat Pitbull – On The Floor (Universal/Mercury)

Top Ten Albums Of 2011
1. Adele – 21 (Beggars/XL)
2. Michael Bublé – Christmas (Warner/Reprise)
3. Bruno Mars – Doo-Wops & Hooligans (Warner/Atlantic)
4. Adele – 19 (Beggars/XL)
5. Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto (EMI/Parlophone)
6. Rihanna – Loud (Universal/Mercury)
7. Lady Gaga – Born This Way (Universal/Polydor)
8. Jessie J – Who You Are (Universal/Lava)
9. Ed Sheeran – + (Warner/Atlantic)
10. Rihanna – Talk That Talk (Universal/Mercury)