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Digital downloads and streaming show big increases

New data about the sales of music and movies in the U.K., reported on by The Guardian, shows that sales of CDs fell by 23 percent for 2018 and correspondingly the use of streaming services continued to increase. In terms of physical sales, CD sales were at 32 million. In 208, the number of CD sales was at 130 million. From 2008, CD sales have declined by around 10 million per year (although the rate of decline has been increasing).

As CD sales have fallen, sales of vinyl records have remained steady with a small increase of 1.6 percent. Vinyl sales in the U.K. stood at 4.2 million in 2018. This reflects the continuing popularity of vinyl records.

The decline in CD sales is reflected by supermarkets offering fewer CDs (and largely repacked ‘greatest hits’ of legacy artists rather than new musical offerings) and the decline of major retailers, like HMV – which was the biggest retailer of music in the U.K. See: “Historic UK music retailer HMV collapses due to digital surge.”

CDs that continue to sell in bigger numbers tend to be those purchased by older people and those who do not buy music very regularly. This is reflected in the major sales being for compilations or movie soundtracks.

Take, for example, the soundtrack for the Greatest Showman. This album sold 48.7 percent digital and 51.3 percent physical, and contrast this to Drake’s album Scorpion, which sold 93.1 percent of its copies digitally and just 6.9 percent in terms of CDs.

Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran
Mark Surridge

With music streaming, Ed Sheeran was the most streamed artist after the release of his album Divide. Also, his song Shape of You was also the most streamed individual track.

These trends are reflective of the U.S., where CD sales have slumped from 450 million to 89 million over a ten-year period, as Billboard reports.

Commentating on these trends, Kim Bayley of the Entertainment Retailers Association told the BBC: “Lots of us have changed the way we consume music and film, and more people are streaming from Netflix or Spotify.”

However, she adds: “But I think we should remember that [physical music] is almost a £2bn business. Even HMV has sales still of a quarter of a billion pounds, so that’s not a small business.”

With vinyl sales, the typical purchaser of vinyl records is younger than the average CD album one, almost exclusively male, with those under 35 accounting for 26 percent of all spend compared with 17.5 percent for CD albums.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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