Digital album sales in the United Kingdom have topped 10 million units in record time, accounting for 22% of all albums sold year to date, according to new data from the Official Charts Company (OCC).
The 10 million sales mark was reached last week - 169 days into 2011. Digital album sales for the same time period in 2010 stood at 7.1 million units, which was itself a record figure.
Adele's "21" (XL Recordings) leads the charge, moving 513,000 digital units to date - the first ever album to sell half a million downloads in the U.K. Rihanna's "Loud" (Def Jam/Universal), Bruno Mars' "Doo-Wops & Hooligans" (Elektra/Warner Music) and Jessie J's "Who You Are" (Lava/Universal Island) have also sold over 100,000 digital copies in the first half of 2011, according to OCC.
Reflecting the growing demand for digital albums, only one album had topped 100,000 sales in the same period the previous year: Florence & The Machine's "Lungs" (Island/Universal). A total of 13 albums have sold more than 50,000 copies year to date, compared to seven in the opening six months of 2010, adds OCC, who estimates that - if the market continues to follow the same pattern - 2011 will see the format pass 20m units in one year for the first time.
In 2010, 16.7m digital albums were sold in the United Kingdom and accounted for 17.5% of the market, according to OCC. The CD format still accounts for nearly 80% of the U.K.'s total albums market.
"These figures amount to 59,000 digital albums a day on average this year, compared to 42,000 in the first six months of 2011," commented OCC managing director Martin Talbot in a statement.
"It is also true, however, that we should prepare for digital albums to co-exist with physical albums for some time to come," he went on to say, adding that the CD format "continues to be the mass market favourite."
"At this stage in the life-cycle of the digital single, physical sales had declined to less than 10%. In comparison, the CD album will be around for plenty of time to come," continued Talbot.
Geoff Taylor, chief executive of British labels trade body, the BPI, also issued a welcome response to the growth in digital album sales, stating: "With consumers able to buy tracks individually from digital services, some predicted the demise of the album format. But in fact digital albums are the hottest format in the market, growing even faster than digital singles."
"Music fans who really love an artist or band want more than the singles, they want to appreciate all the different elements of an artist's creativity," Taylor went on to say.