Growth in the singles market and a new wave of popularity for British music stateside helped compensate for a small decline in U.K. album shipments, the British Phonographic Industry says in its new t

Growth in the singles market and a new wave of popularity for British music stateside helped compensate for a small decline in U.K. album shipments, the British Phonographic Industry says in its new trade review.

Britain's albums market in the second quarter slipped to roughly 31.73 million units, down 1.7% from the corresponding period in 2004.

Compilations took the biggest volume hit during the period, registering a 14.2% year-on-year shortfall to almost 6.6 million units. At the same time, shipments of artist albums achieved 2.2% growth to more than 25 million copies. The result was underpinned by strong performing new releases from homegrown acts including Coldplay, Oasis, James Blunt and Gorillaz, and hits packages from dance acts Faithless and Basement Jaxx. Each of those recordings were among the period's top ten-shifting albums in Britain.

"It's been a good quarter for the recorded music business, even though the major releases occurred towards its end," comments BPI chairman Peter Jamieson in a statement. "This is testament to the fact that despite difficult market conditions, British music is as popular as ever."

On another high note, the burgeoning digital downloads sector and the 7" vinyl format helped lift the overall British singles market in the second period. More than 5 million downloads were sold in the April-June quarter, up 743% from the same period last year. "The battle against illegal filesharing will continue, but we are delighted to have hit this milestone so soon," Jamieson adds.

According to figures supplied by the Official U.K. Chart Company, British consumers have purchased more than 10 million downloads in the first six months of the year, far outstripping the 5.7 million tracks sold online in the calendar year 2004.

Moreover, the popularity of domestic acts at home has coincided with a resurgence in sales success for British-signed artists in the United States, the London-based trade body notes. In 2004, 75 U.K.-signed albums sold more than 100,000 units in the United States, up from 66 albums in 2003, according to over-the-counter U.S. sales data provided by Billboard.biz sister company Nielsen Soundscan. Rod Stewart held the top two positions among U.K. artist albums in the United States last year, led by his 1.2 million-selling set "Stardust - Great American Songbook Vol. 3 (J) ahead of "Great American Songbook Vol. 2" (J), with more than 814,000 sales.