Strong growth in digital and a record breaking year for singles was not enough to offset a further annual decline in total U.K. music sales, according to year-end figures released by the Official Charts Company (OCC) and British labels trade body the BPI.
Total combined sales of digital and physical albums fell by 5.6% to 113.2 million units in 2011, down from 119.9 million units in 2010. The chief cause of the decline was a 12.6% decrease in CD album sales, which fell from 98.5 million the previous year to 86.2 million. Despite continued growth in digital album sales - climbing 26.6% from 21 million in 2010 to 26.6 million in 2011 - CD still accounts for over 75% of total album sales compared to a 23.5% market share for digital and 0.3% for vinyl.
Although vinyl remains a niche format, its popularity continues to steadily grow, with 337,000 vinyl albums sold in the United Kingdom in 2011. That represents a 43.7% rise on the 234,000 units moved the previous year and amounts to the highest tally of vinyl albums sales since 2005. More significantly, 15 albums broke the 100,000 barrier in digital sales, reflecting the increasing popularity of digital for album purchases.
As previously reported, U.K. single sales - which are almost entirely digital in format - enjoyed a banner year in 2011, climbing for a fourth successive year to a record high of 177.9 million, up 10% from 161.8 million the previous year. The OCC figures also revealed that the last calendar week of 2011 saw over 1 million albums and 5.7 million singles downloaded by U.K. consumers - the biggest ever week for digital sales of both formats.
"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," said BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor, in a statement that also hit out at the British government's protracted implementation of the Digital Economy Act.
"British artists continue to produce incredible music that resonates at home and around the world," Taylor went on to say. "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 U.S. tech giants. The U.K. 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."
BPI Chairman Tony Wadsworth also issued a damning statement criticising the U.K. government's inertia when it comes to tackling piracy. "Led by Adele, Jessie J, Coldplay, Ed Sheeran and others, records by British artists in 2011 achieved both critical and commercial success both at home and around the world," Wadsworth said. "But the challenge of sustaining this performance against a backdrop of chronic piracy means that Government action remains absolutely crucial for British artists and their labels."
British acts represented 5 of the Top 10 bestselling artist albums in the U.K. last year. In line with her phenomenal international sales success, Adele's "21" was the best-selling U.K. album of 2011, moving 3.8 million units. The record, which was first released in the United Kingdom nearly twelve months ago by indie label XL Recordings, is officially the highest-selling album of the 21st century, achieving more sales in a single calendar year than any other album in British chart history, according to the OCC.
The second best-selling album of the year is MichaelBublé's holiday set "Christmas" (Reprise/ Warner Music) with Bruno Mars' "Doo-Wops & Hooligans" (Atlantic/Warner Music) propping up third. Adele's debut album "19" (XL Recordings) is the fourth highest seller, followed by Coldplay's "Mylo Xyloto" (Parlophone/EMI Music). The OCC did not reveal individual album sales.
In the singles chart, Adele also topped the year-end best-selling chart with "Someone Like You" moving 1.2 million units. "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera (Polydor/Universal Music) is the second-highest selling single of the year, followed in the third place by "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett and Goonrock (Polydor/Universal Music), although OCC did not reveal unit sales. Jessie J's "Price Tag" featuring B.o.B. (Island/Lava/Universal Music) is No. 4 while Rihanna's global smash "We Found Love" featuring Calvin Harris is the No. 5 best-seller of the year.