Digital Album Sales Tumbled in the UK in 2016 - eMarketer

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Digital Album Sales Tumbled in the UK in 2016

Sales fell almost 30%. Streaming services took up the slack.

January 13, 2017

Sales of digital albums slid again in 2016, falling almost 30%. Streaming services took up the slack.

UK Music Album Sales, by Format, 2013-2016 (millions of units, % of total and % change)

The BPI, the British Recorded Musical Industry association, reported that total “album equivalent” sales eked out a gain, but only because the measure includes streamed music. With streamed music added into the mix of digital albums (plus so-called track-equivalent albums) and physical albums of any format, the organization said that 123 million albums were sold in the UK in 2016, up 1.5% from 2015.

Among all formats, physical albums still sold the most copies, at 50.6 million. But that was down from 2015’s 55.8 million. Digital album sales declined even more precipitously, tumbling nearly 30% to 18.1 million, down from the 25.7 million purchased in 2015.

UK Digital Audio Streams, 2014-2016 (billions and % change)

Meanwhile, streaming continued to grow at an extremely fast pace. Streaming’s contribution to album sales, via so-called streaming equivalent album sales, rose 67.5% to 44.9 million for the year.

Though a niche market, vinyl LP sales were also up significantly versus 2015. Units sales for the resurgent format rose 52.6% to 3.2 million, up from 2015’s 2.1 million.

In terms of value, music sales rose 4.6% to €1.11 billion ($1.50 billion), according to GfK and the BPI. Physical album sales still contributed the largest share of total sales, but the figure was off 9.3% from a year ago. Not surprisingly, sales attributed to streaming were up sharply, rising 65.1% vs. 2015.

—Ben Clague

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