Releases from newcomers Arctic Monkeys, James Blunt and Corinne Bailey Rae helped push first quarter artist CD album sales in the United Kingdom to a record 27.9 million units, according to sales figu

Releases from newcomers Arctic Monkeys, James Blunt and Corinne Bailey Rae helped push first quarter artist CD album sales in the United Kingdom to a record 27.9 million units, according to sales figures issued today (April 12) from the BPI.

The volume of artist albums rose by 1.5% year-on-year to nearly 28 million units, representing the best-ever first quarter sales at U.K. retail. Corresponding value figures were not published.

At the same time, the trade body cites "softness" of the compilations market as a key contributing factor to an overall 3% decline in the volume of the total albums market.

The trade body's new report is based on over-the-counter sales data collated by charts compiler the Official U.K. Charts Company. The OCC, which is jointly owned by the BPI and the British Assn. of Record Dealers, gathers its physical sales data from more than 4,000 stores nationwide.

Arctic Monkeys' debut Domino Recordings set "Whatever People Say I Am That's What I'm Not" was the biggest hitter in the early part of the year, selling roughly 900,000 copies (triple platinum) in the 10 weeks since its Jan. 23 local release. The record-breaking album generated 2.5% of the quarter's entire albums market.

The BPI also hailed consumers' adoption of the digital format for a "massive turnaround" for the singles format. Single track downloads in the quarter were up 152% year-on-year to 11.5 million units and now account for 78% of all single track sold, the trade body said. In 2005, downloads generated 44% of all singles sales, and just 4% in the previous year.

Compared with the same period last year, the combined digital and physical singles market registered 44% growth.

The OCC on Sunday (April 9) published for the first time an integrated weekly albums chart, which measures sales of CDs with full-album downloads. The new-look chart was unveiled almost a year after the OCC rolled out its integrated singles chart.

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