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Unsinkable music CD finally sinking

Plastic sales plummet: HMV shares down 75% in one year

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After a remarkably resilient lifetime, in which its death was announced prematurely several times, the music CD finally looks to be on its way out. Figures released by the BPI this week show a 12.4 per cent decline in CD albums sales. In 2009, CD sales fell just 6.9 per cent – remarkable considering the disappearance of Zavvi and Woolies – in a recorded music market that edged up 1 per cent. US unit sales of CDs have been falling since 1999.

As has been the trend, digital sales grew, but not enough to make up for physical sales. The Official Charts Company data shows digital albums grew 30.6 per cent year on year to 21m, but CDs declined to £98.5m, a combined drop of 7 per cent.

Singles sales have boomed since the unbundling of the album – reflecting the ease of an impulse purchase when you're by a computer. The singles market is now worth £161.8m, almost 6 per cent up year on year, almost all of which are digital downloads.

The picture for album sales is likely to get worse. HMV is closing 60 stores with the chain's shares trading at a quarter of their value a year ago. HMV hardly helped matters by pricing goods cheaper on its online store – effectively taxing people who bothered to go to its stores. Other factors include the absence of a SuBo this year – and the fact that December saw two paralysing bouts of cold weather – when most sales of books, CDs and DVDs are made.

The BPI published research in December suggesting that four illegal downloads take place for every legitimate song purchase. ®

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