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UK music downloads up 200% since 1 June

2m songs acquired legally online this year

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UK music fans have purchased and downloaded over 2m songs since 1 January, according to the latest figures from the UK's answer to the Recording Industry Ass. of America, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

But contrary to past dire warnings of a P2P-driven market collapse, physical singles and album sales grew in value between Q2 2003 and Q2 2004, the organisations numbers show.

During the first five months of 2004, just 0.5m tracks were downloaded from legal digital music services. In less than three months, that figure has risen to 2m, the BPI said today.

It's not hard to see why: Napster's UK launch on 20 May followed by ITMS UK's 15 June debut.

While around 200 single titles are on sale and being purchased in shops at any given time, according to the BPI, the figure for the online world is 40,000 titles. That's probably more a sign of a shift toward purchasing more individual tracks and fewer complete albums than downloaders seeking out a broader range of singles.

Not that such behaviour is hindering the traditional album market. Quite the reverse. Second-quarter vinyl and cassette revenues were significantly down year on year - no great surprise there - but sales of these formats there still were, and CD sales were up. Overall the UK album market grew 3.7 per cent year on year between Q2 2003 and Q2 2004. Single sales were up 6.4 per cent over the same period.

Comparing the 12 months to June 2003 with the year to June 2004, album sales were up 3.3 per cent to more than £1.11bn while the music market as a whole was up three per cent to a little over £1.22bn. However, single sales were down 19.4 per cent to £60.5m, but it's worth remembering that major UK High Street retailer WH Smith stopped selling CD singles in February 2004, so availability has fallen.

During Q2 2004, £231.94m of recorded music was sold, up 4.1 per cent on Q2 2003's £221.88m.

Since album unit prices were lower in Q2 2004 than Q2 2003 - at least according to such barometers as Amazon.co.uk's pricing - all the indications point to the fact that British music fans are actually buying more albums now than they were a year ago.

The BPI's Q2 figures do not include the contribution made by downloads, but they should make a healthy contribution to Q3's numbers given the big increase in legal download activity since 1 June. ®

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