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In the news - digital music sales rise as CDs fall

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Hajar Javaheri Hajar Javaheri | 10:28 UK time, Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Despite the continued decline in the music industry, digital album sales are on the up, according to figures published this week by the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI).

The ever-imminent demise of the music business has been much discussed in recent years, with industry analysts citing a range of reasons, from a digital piracy backlash against high CD prices to record labels failing to adapt sufficiently to the internet age.

Online personalised radio stations and digital music services have accustomed us to having music whenever we want it - without necessarily having to pay for it. The likes of Spotify, Rara and Last FM are just some of the sites streaming music to a user’s computer or mobile in exchange for adverts or a monthly subscription fee, saving listeners from having to directly purchase their own music.

That we can now cherry-pick album tracks online may also be a reason for the overall drop in album sales. It's now possible to buy individual tracks – regardless of whether they've been released as a single – instead of buying the whole album in a physical form.

Although album sales have dropped by almost a fifth since 2007, with digital album sales quadrupling in that time, CDs still dominate the album industry, accounting for three quarters of sales last year. Vinyl has also seen a surge, suggesting that in a digital age the music lover still feels a need to keep a small piece of the band they’re listening to.

A whopping 98.4% of singles sold in 2011 were in digital format, the easiest and cheapest way to buy music, with tracks currently priced around 79p. Websites like TuneChecker also help you to find the cheapest deal on your chosen song or artist.

Perhaps the freedom of the internet has left us devaluing music and less willing to pay artists their dues. But if the web has indeed created a monster, surely it's about time the music industry learned to tame it?

To learn more about downloading music, read the BBC WebWise guide, How to get music and photos onto your computer.

Hajar is a regular contributor to the WebWise blog and has also made award-winning programmes for BBC Radio. In her spare time she loves reading, writing and singing.



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