Digital music 'becomes mainstream' in the UK

HMV store on Dublin's Grafton Street HMV has been hit by competition from online rivals, supermarkets and illegal music and film downloads

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The inexorable rise of digital music, blamed by many for the collapse of high street retailer HMV, continues unabated in the UK, according to new figures.

Almost one in five consumers (19.6%) now prefers to buy all their music as downloads, says trade body the BPI.

Last year, 27.7% of UK music fans purchased downloads from stores such as iTunes or Amazon; or streamed songs on services like Spotify or YouTube.

Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know was the most-streamed song of 2012.

It was closely followed by Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe - with more than 3.7 billion tracks streamed in the UK in 2012, or 140 per household.

The streaming market is now worth £49m to record labels.

Spotify leads the field in terms of brand awareness, with figures revealing almost 70% of all consumers to be familiar with the Swedish service.

According to the BPI, four out of five of consumers have heard of at least one of the leading audio streaming services.

Spotify's own research shows Edinburgh to be the UK's top city for streaming in terms of per-capita usage, followed by Cardiff and Southampton.

On the release of the BPI's Digital Music Nation report, its chief executive, Geoff Taylor, said there had "rightly" been "a lot of focus in the past few weeks on High Street music retail".

"That will continue," he continued. "We must do all we can to serve music fans who love CDs and vinyl.

"But as well as great music stores, Britain is blessed with a world-beating array of digital music services."

The music fan, he said, would be "the clear winner as digital services evolve to deliver even richer music experiences".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    My son age 19 has never bought any music, despite having an impressive music collection...... myself at age 19 had bought 20 - 30 singles and 10 - 15 albums, When I questioned him about buying music a look of shear horror came over his face. I think that says it all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    I get that folks enjoy the music shop experience, but why aren't record shops selling digital titles in-store with all the rich shopping experience folks seem to love? What have the record stores done at all to adopt digital media? Anything?

    Music stores saw the demand and refused to supply, then got all surprised because the customers stopped coming. I think that's called cognitive dissonance..

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Stores offer several benefits: lossless format, sales people, physical copies.

    * 7Digital offer a lossless format.
    * Amazon has a great suggestion feature that often leads me down a trail of new music.
    * You can always burn to CD and print your booklet/labels, but more and music players integrate to display information way beyond a bit of paper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    I find it ironic that people complain about MP3 quality, when the weakest link is in fact the device or system your playing it on....... 192kbps might sound different to 320kbps mp3 (not by much), but if your system isn't up to the job, then your not going to be doing it justice in whatever format AND even then im assuming you know how to set up your own kit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    @107. johnnybgoode83

    You make a good point and i agree but there's still not enough to keep HMV afloat it would seem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    "Personally I prefer the convenience of mp3's and the lack of clutter from CD's. It makes it easy to listen to my music when I want where ever I am."

    It's funny, but I find that now I can listen to whatever I want that I rather don't particularly care what it sounds like. Without having to rummidge about or try and borrow a copy off Ken, pretty much anything will do. . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Stuart Wilson,

    ""Mike Oldfield...beep boop beep boop electronic stuff"

    Ommadawn is techno? What drugs do you need to ingest for that effect?"

    Some of his more recent albums, particlularly "Light and Shade", are quite electronic.

    Strangely, my iPod says Ommadawn comes under electronica. But it's prog rock isn't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Walking around London at the weekend (e.g.Berwick Street) it was good to see independent record shops still selling vinyl.
    HMV closed because they wen't good at what the did. For jobs lost there more are created with the online services.
    Personally I prefer the convenience of mp3's and the lack of clutter from CD's. It makes it easy to listen to my music when I want where ever I am.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    I mainly stream my music because I find it better in almost all aspects.

    Although it's great too have a tangible item and have it hold some sentimental value (which only CDs/Vinyl can provide), with digital;

    - Playlists with hundreds of tracks/artists
    - Can't lose an album (unless the host removes it which is rare)
    - Cheaper & easier
    - Radio to discover new artists

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.


    HMV went into administration because they failed to adapt to the changing marketplace.

    People are still buying music, just in a different way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    I download music a lot, but that's because they don't sell very much of the music I like anymore. My generation is usually into whatever's in the charts, but I prefer older stuff, mainly Status Quo, Mike Oldfield, Jethro Tull, The Levellers, and many others, but you don't get very much of this in the shops.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    "yet to download an album costs the same as a CD"

    Not always. When I go into a record store or even on Amazon the CDs are usually around a tenner. MP3 albums are usually around the £8 mark.

    "this is what's caused HMV to go into administration"

    No it isn't. High rents/business rates mean that they cannot compete. That is not the fault of digital music providers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    "Mike Oldfield...beep boop beep boop electronic stuff"

    Ommadawn is techno? What drugs do you need to ingest for that effect?

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    I work in electronic manufacturing and back in the day 5532 was the de-facto op amp for pro audio and the 4558 for lower end gear, Linear Tech, Burr Brown OP series precision amps followed and were the last word in linear parts, then came digital.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    I don't like this at all. As we all know, this is what's caused HMV to go into administration - people are chossing to download music instead of going out and buying it.

    The other day, I went into an HMV and felt wonderful immersed in all that music, all those albums on the shelves, and finding all the artists I like. I don't want that to end.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    "Perhaps that's the reason that music is becoming increasingly poor in both content and format."

    I am sorry but this is not the case for the wider music industry. Charts, maybe (I can't say for sure as I tend to ignore the charts) but there is a wealth of great new music outside of that. I am forever discovering new musicians through the likes of Pledge Music and Bandcamp.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    People should recognise manipulation by the music companies when they buy a download, it is all profit after recording cost are covered as they haven't had the cost of manufacturing a product ie, CD or Vinyl disc or pay distribution or profits to shops and yet to download an album costs the same as a CD, its no wonder they are going in for downloads more and more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Only one iN five? I'm amazed it's as few as that. The success of iTunes is like the success of Sky TV; those who invest, win. Those who sit round whining and looking for reasons to not spend any money, go out of business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.


    I'm inclined to agree with you.

    But my point is more people download music illegally than there are those who actually shell out for it. Perhaps that's the reason that music is becoming increasingly poor in both content and format. It's become a mass produced, cheap and nasty parody of ripped off chords and cover versions. But which is the cause and which is the effect?

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    89. Dandalf
    I don't agree. I have bought a lot of digital music (some good, some not so good) and I have no trouble forming emotional attachments because it is the music I love and not the medium on which it comes. If the content of the song or album is good enough the emotional connection is there.


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