U.K. Digital Album Sales Climb Nearly 25%, But Overall Music Market Drops
U.K. Digital Album Sales Climb Nearly 25%, But Overall Music Market Drops

The success of British artists on the global stage and the need for stronger Government action to combat piracy - and help ensure the U.K.'s continued status as a major exporter of musical talent - were the two dominant themes at the BPI's annual general meeting (AGM) held earlier today (July 3) in central London.

"We should not be afraid to shout about how proud we are of our industry and of the importance of music to society," said Tony Wadsworth, chairman of British labels' trade body the BPI, citing the international success of Adele, One Direction and Ed Sheeran as prime examples of thriving British contemporary artists.

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Last year, Adele became the fourth British act in five years to claim the global best-selling artist album with her sophomore set "21" (XL Recordings/Columbia) selling 18 million units worldwide, according to the BPI. As previously reported, in 2011 one in eight artist albums sold around the globe were by British artists, with the U.K.'s share of world sales rising to 12.6%, equating to nearly £2 billion in retail value (also according to the BPI).

Despite that success, the British Government continues to neglect and stifle the music business in favour of "billionaire tech companies" Wadsworth went on to say.

"This love affair with big technology and big telecoms has cast a shadow over our home-grown creative success and it's time to redress the balance," he stated, adding, "We have earned the right to be treated seriously and fairly by Government. The technology world has to also come to the party either willingly, or kicking and screaming."

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He continued, "When consumers are encouraged towards illegal content by search engines, where reputable advertisers plough millions towards websites that make their money from our music and return not a penny to the creators, the Government needs to step in."

Also speaking at the AGM was Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Harriet Harman MP. Unsurprisingly, Harman was also critical of the ruling coalition's Government's efforts to combat piracy and its slow implementation of the Digital Economy Act, which was made law back in 2010 but has yet to come into effect.

"The Government has got to get a move on and stop dragging its feet to strike the right balance between the content industries, including music, and the technology companies to create a climate where innovation can flourish while copyright is protected," Harman told the audience.

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"Google and other technology companies need to do more with the content creators to better signpost legitimate search and block illegal sites," she went on to say.

"This Government has dragged its feet unforgivably on implementing the Digital Economy Act. It's standing up for the wrong people - for powerful interests and not hardworking musicians, giving in to lobbying and not giving support to our music industry," continued Harman, who was later asked by an audience member her thoughts on the proposed EMI/Universal merger - a question that she tactfully dodged without issuing comment.

BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor also pressed for technology companies and search engine providers to work closer with content creators, preferably voluntarily, but, if not, through Government-imposed legislation.

"The practice of knowingly preferring illegal sites in search listings misleads consumers into a murky world of illegal content many of them would not otherwise encounter," said Taylor, adding that "if search engines will not find solutions on a voluntary basis, we hope that Government will… introduce legislation on this issue."

"The digital economy is now too significant in all of our lives, and too important to the country's future prosperity, to be somehow exempted from the normal rules of a civilised society," Taylor went on to say. "Together we are doing our part to ensure British music fans can access any digital music they want, legally, safely and easily. Now the Government must not fail in its clear duty to match words with action, and unlock the extraordinary potential of this country's creativity."