Addition of downloads bumps up volume.

The United Kingdom yesterday (April 17) launched its first singles chart that integrates sales of downloads and physical product. The British Phonographic Industry hailed its arrival as "an historic day for the U.K. music industry," citing sales figures that have "virtually doubled" the market's volume.

The Official U.K. Charts Co. reports sales of 393,000 physical singles during the chart's compilation period, April 10-16, and 383,000 single-track downloads. The OCC is a joint venture between the BPI and the British Assn. of Record Dealers.

The BPI also observed that, 15 weeks into 2005, U.K. download sales already exceed those for the whole of 2004. Download sales for the year to date top 5.26 million.

Tony Christie's UMTV single "(Is This the Way to) Amarillo" is No. 1 on the chart, becoming the first single to amass five consecutive weeks at the top in 18 months. Christie sold 64,339 physical units and 4,661 downloads during the week, for a total of 69,000. He would also have topped a "traditional" chart of physical-only sales.

Razorlight's "Somewhere Else" (Vertigo), a new entry at No. 2, is also in the position it would have occupied on the traditional survey. All but two singles in the combined top 40 are available both physically and online.

The OCC, with the BPI and BARD, has been planning the chart for 18 months. But the timing has been criticized by the Assn. of Independent Music, which last week issued a letter to the Office of Fair Trading saying indies are not fairly represented. "AIM welcomes the further legitimization of downloads by inclusion in the singles chart," it said in a statement, "once the supply chain is suitably developed, appropriate monitoring systems are in place and independent labels are able to compete on a level playing field."

There have also been accusations from the independent sector that individuals working for major labels would be able to "buy back" their own legally released downloads, in numbers sufficient to influence their chart position, without fear of detection.

The BPI says the independents' share of the top 40 of the new chart is 10.4%, vs. 9.4% for the physical-only top 40.

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