We may live in the playlist era, but digital consumers are buying more albums than ever. In the U.K., digital album sales have already surpassed their 2010 total. Last year's sales figure is within close reach in the U.S.
U.K. consumers have purchased 21.3 million digital albums, according to Official Charts Company data released Monday by BPI. Digital albums now represent 26.2 percent of U.K. album sales, up from 17.5 percent in 2010.
Through October 30, U.S. digital album sales were up 20 percent to 81,347,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan, about 5 million units shy of the 86,314,000 units sold in 2010. With weekly sales ranging from 1.6 million to 2 million units, last year's tally could be matched during the week ending November 20. Digital albums now represent 32.5 percent of U.S. album sales, up from 26.5 percent at the end of 2010.
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U.S. digital album sales are within reach of a big milestone: 100 million units in a single year. If sales are still up 20 percent at the end of 2011, U.S. digital album sales will have totaled about 103 million units.
Although U.S. sales lean digital more than in the U.K., the two markets have a couple similarities. Both saw big digital sales from Coldplay's latest album, and Adele's "21" is the all-time top digital album in both markets.
Coldplay's "Mylo Xyloto" set a digital record in the U.K and nearly did so in the U.S. U.K. consumers purchased a record 80,000 digital copies - 40 percent of sales - of the album in its debut week. But the album could muster only the second-best digital debut in history in the U.S. by selling 302,000 units (67 percent of sales), ranking it behind only the 317,000 digital units sold earlier this year by "Watch The Throme" by Jay-Z and Kanye West. But "Watch the Throne" had the benefit of a four-day iTunes exclusive before going on sale at other digital and physical retailers. "Mylo Xyloto" was made available to all U.S. retailers on the same day.
"Mylo Xyloto" also set an iTunes record with first-week sales of 500,000 across all iTunes territories.
Adele's "21" is the top digital album of all time in both the U.K. and U.S. The singer's second album has sold almost 670,000 units in the U.K. - twice as many as the second-best digital album - and has sold 1.5 million units in the U.S. - nearly 500,000 units more than the second-best title.
The U.K. and U.S. share one more thing in common regarding "Mylo Xyloto" and "21": neither album is available on popular music service Spotify. "Mylo Xyloto" is not available at subscription services in either country while in the U.S. "21" can be found on Mog, Rdio and Rhapsody.