UK's 2011 Singles Sales Reach Record-Breaking Numbers
UK's 2011 Singles Sales Reach Record-Breaking Numbers

The year is not yet over but U.K. single sales have already reached a record-breaking high.

A total of 164 million singles have been sold year to date, according to the Official Charts Company (OCC), surpassing last year's 161.8 million sales total with two trading weeks left to run.

The yearly sales total will climb higher still when this week's chart is released Dec. 25, which may see the Military Wives Choir land the highly coveted Christmas No. 1 spot. According to the OCC, 242,000 copies of the Choir's single "Wherever You Are" (Decca/Universal) have been sold in its first two days of release making it the fastest selling single in six years. The previous fastest-selling single was "That's My Goal" by former "X Factor" winner Shayne Ward in 2005.

The current U.K. No. 1, a cover of Damien Rice's "Cannonball" (Syco Music/Sony Music Entertainment) by the recently crowned "X Factor" champions Little Mix, scored the best first-week sale of any single in the market in 2011, with 210,000 units.

This year's record breaking single sales total continues the year-on-year trend for ever-increasing track downloads. Since 2004, when a total of 32 million singles were sold, sales of singles have increased by more than five times, according to the OCC. In 2005 the yearly tally was 48 million, rising to 67 million in 2006 and then to 87 million in 2007. Fuelled by the rapidly growing popularity of downloads, 2008 saw U.K. consumers purchase a total of 115 million singles, climbing to115 million in 2008, 153 million in 2009 and 162 million for the last calendar year.

"In these challenging economic times, it is extraordinary that singles sales continue to surge - all evidence of the easy access and fantastic value offered by downloads at this time," said Official Charts Company manager director Martin Talbot in a statement.