Sales of album and single downloads fall for the first time

Downloads fell by 15 per cent in 2014 as streaming takes a bite out of the market

Sales of album and single downloads fell during for the first time in 2014.

Figures released by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) show that music downloads fell by 15 per cent during 2014. The decline was three times faster than the decline of physical formats such as vinyl and CD.

Music downloads entered the mainstream in the UK in 2004 when Apple launched iTunes, and CD sales were immediately affected. However, the decline of CD sales has slowed, with sales of vinyl enjoying its best year in almost 20 during 2014. iTunes’ sales have been most affected by subscription-based streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer, which enjoyed a 65 per cent rise last year.

Streaming now accounts for 12.6 per cent of all music consumed in the UK, with more than 14.8 billion song streams throughout the year compared to 7.5 billion in 2013. The most-streamed artist on Spotify was Ed Sheeran, with more than a billion streams, while One Direction crossed over the same milestone when they released ‘Four’. They join two other British acts, Coldplay and Calvin Harris, who have been streamed on the service more than a billion times.

The most-streamed track in a single week during 2014 was Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’, which was streamed more than 2.5 million times in the week ending December 27. Industry experts expect streaming to grow in 2015 as the number of services goes up. Apple is thought to be launching its own service to rival Spotify following its acquisition of Beats last year.

Brits now listen to almost half of their music digitally, with the ERA stating digital purchases accounted for the highest-ever level of entertainment spending – which also includes computer games and video – last year. Almost exactly half of spending on music, video and computer games was to pay for digital downloads or streaming. Despite music sales falling, the entertainment industry as a whole grew 2.2 per cent to £5.7 billion, its second successive year of growth after five years of decline. Digital video sales, including on-demand services such as Netflix, grew 29.3 per cent.