U.K. consumers' growing enthusiasm for homegrown artists and digital downloads in 2005 helped the national recorded music market achieve "one of its best years yet," trade body the British Phonographi

U.K. consumers' growing enthusiasm for homegrown artists and digital downloads in 2005 helped the national recorded music market achieve "one of its best years yet," trade body the British Phonographic Industry claimed Friday (Jan. 6).

Britain's traditionally buoyant albums sector registered a 2.7% year-on-year decline in volume to 159 million units, according to the trade report. The downturn was partly due to a 15.7% volume decline in compilation sales, the BPI noted.

The trade figures are based on data collected by the Official U.K. Charts Company, which tracks over-the-counter sales from almost 6,000 stores nationwide. Market value data was not published.

Domestic repertoire led the way in album sales, with British acts occupying the top five places. James Blunt's debut "Back to Bedlam" (Atlantic/Warner Music) was the top-selling album of 2005, ahead of Coldplay's third set "X&Y" (Parlophone/EMI).

"A rich crop of albums from both debut and established acts meant that 2005 will be remembered as yet another great year for British music, and helped us record the best year ever for artist album sales," commented BPI chairman Peter Jamieson in the report.

The BPI also noted in its annual trade figures that the digital download business began to flourish in 2005. Roughly 26.4 million unit download sales were generated, up from 5.4 million -- a 357% rise -- from the corresponding period in 2004.

The festive period saw substantial gains in both physical and download sales. A pre-Christmas surge saw almost two million download sales in the last two weeks of the year. A one-week record of 10.6 million albums were sold leading up to Dec. 25.

Meanwhile, sales of physical singles continued to shrink, with 21.4 million copies shifted against 26.5 million in 2004. Overall, combined physical and digital single track sales rose 48.4% to 47.9 million, led by "(Is This the Way To) Amarillo," the British chart-topper recorded by Tony Christie featuring Peter Kay (UMTV/Universal).

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