Ongoing demand for digital downloads helped the U.K.'s singles market in the second quarter recover to a six-year best, according to a new publication.

Ongoing demand for digital downloads helped the U.K.'s singles market in the second quarter rise to a six-year best, according to a new publication.

Downloads accounted for roughly half of the 16.7 million singles sold during the April-June period, trade body the BPI reported Thursday (July 6). On an annualised basis, the country's recovering singles market generates about 58 million unit sales, its highest level since 2000, the BPI said.

Using sales data gathered by the Official U.K. Charts Company, the BPI said weekly digital sales are now within striking distance of the one million benchmark. In 2006, the British market has already generated 24.3 million download sales, just two million short of the entire total of 26.4 million for the entire year 2005.

"Record companies' enthusiastic embrace of new digital formats has helped the single find a new lease of life, and the British singles chart is more exciting than it has been for years," BPI chairman Peter Jamieson said in a statement.

Despite a dip in sales of compilation CDs, the industry body reported a small year-on-year rise in second quarter album sales.

Artist albums have now recorded positive growth in six of the past seven quarters, and the second quarter was the largest second-quarter sales total ever recorded, according to the report. It said downloads accounted for 2% of the quarterly total, with more than 600,000 digital albums sold.

The trade body added, "2006 is shaping up to be a record-breaking year for U.K. acts, with British talent claiming 52 of the top 100 albums in the quarter and six of the top 10 sellers, including debuts from Shayne Ward, Kooks and Corinne Bailey Rae."

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