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Some 1.75m songs were downloaded from the UK's legal online music services during Q3, enough to turn the singles market from a 12 per cent decline year on year to a nine per cent increase over the same periods, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) trade body said today.

Some 7.3m physical singles were sold in the UK during Q3. Of course, many of the tracks download from iTunes, Napster, Wippit and co. aren't singles per se but individual album tracks, so the comparison isn't an entirely fair one. Indeed, the BPI said some 40,000 different tracks are being downloaded each week, a figure far in excess of the number of singles available

Still, according to the BPI, almost 250,000 tracks are being downloaded from legal services each week - demand the organisation described as "strong".

It pledged to incorporate the downloads of official singles into the regular singles chart early in 2005. It is also working to incorporate downloads to mobile phones into the chart, the organisation said.

During Q3, analog media sales continued to plummet, with single cassettes vanishing altogether, 12in vinyl singles down 6.8 per cent, and album cassettes and LP revenues down 36.6 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively. That said, 7in singles enjoyed an 86.5 per cent increase in sales. Go figure.

CD revenues were down 1.5 per cent between Q3 2004 and Q3 2003, but still accounted for over 99.4 per cent of album sales. Music DVD sales rose 40.9 per cent to £9.14m - still a very long way from the £222.4m spent on CD albums in the UK in Q3.

In the 12 months to the end of September 2004, overall album sales were up 2.1 per cent, suggesting UK consumers are still into purchasing albums. Since that's a revenue increase, and retail prices for CDs have fallen - 60 per cent of CDs cost under a tenner - it's clear consumers are also buying more units than before.

Indeed, some 51.5m CD albums were sold in Q3 in the UK - the highest Q3 total, the BPI admitted. Some 237.2m CD albums have been sold here since September 2003 - "another all time high", the BPI cheered. So much for P2P piracy killing album sales... Maybe U2's latest waxing, How to Disable an Atomic Bomb won't suffer too much from being leaked online ahead of its release. ®

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