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Vinyl sales reach 15 year high, Blighty becomes No. 3 music buyer

You just can't trust that singing fat lady

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The UK overtook Germany as the world's third largest music market last year, according to the yearbook from trade association IFPI. The USA and Japan remain the largest two music nations.

Revenues from music recordings were about the same as last year - $16.4bn - but a slow shift from physical (down 5 per cent) to legit internet downloads (up 8 per cent) and performance rights (up 9.4 per cent) continues. Revenue from downloads has risen from 22 per cent in 2008 to 35 per cent today; physical revenue over the same period has fallen from 74 per cent to 57 per cent.

The European recorded music market is now worth €4.1bn - down from €7.1bn peak between 1998 and 2002. Licensed download services were slow to launch in some markets such as Spain, which saw an 80 per cent decline in revenue and thousands of job losses.

"The music industry simply grew complacent while Spaniards consolidated a freebie music culture," noted Billboard mag. Even Germany saw a fall of 4.6 per cent - and more than half of Germans only ever buy their music in physical stores.*

Graph showing fall and rise of vinyl record sales

Vinyl sales are recovering back to 1990s levels.

Twenty million people pay for music streaming - up from 8m two years ago - and it's now 13 per cent of all music recordings' revenue. Vinyl revenue continued to grow, by 52 per cent. Although it only adds up to $171m worldwide - which barely buys you a couple of misfiring Chelsea strikers. It's a tiny niche.

There's no sign of download sales slowing down - a real fear some years ago. The UK saw 187.8m tracks downloaded and a 15 per cent rise in full album downloads to 30.5m. IFPI points to Sweden, the most mature streaming market in the world thanks to Spotify, where per capita revenue from recorded music has risen again for the third year running, almost up to 2005 levels.

Adele's 21, the best-selling album of 2012 even though it was released in 2011, was issued by UK independent label XL, part of the Beggars Group. But there's no other indie label in the Top 50 bestsellers of 2012 - a sign of consolidation in a year that saw four major labels become three. ®

Bootnote

*It's a mystery why the entertainment industries never effectively bridged the gap between physical footfall and download sales. We were writing about M2M retail technology - which beamed songs to your phone or music player - more than a decade ago, back when it was commonplace to get information beamed to your Palm PDA. Clearly, retailers like the high margins of shifting physical stock, and record labels were besotted by controlling the movement of their product via DRM. But you have to lose some in the short term to gain in the long term. Now, with the cloud, it'll probably never happen.

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