LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. album sales rose for the first time since 2004 last year, edging up 1.4 percent to 330.6 million units from 326.2 million in 2010, according to figures published in Billboard magazine Wednesday.
The small increase in the world’s biggest music market will be welcome news to the record industry after years of declining revenues, although globally 2011 music sales are set to register another decrease when official figures have been collated.
According to Billboard, U.S. physical CD sales fell six percent last year, but the 20 percent increase in digital album downloads to a record 103.1 million more than made up for the losses.
Digital song sales grew 10 percent in 2011 to a record 1.27 billion downloads, compared with 1.17 billion in 2010.
Vinyl album sales also rose to 3.9 million copies, versus 2.8 million in 2010.
As expected, British singer Adele’s “21” was the top-selling album in the United States last year at 5.82 million copies, the highest annual tally since Usher’s “Confessions” sold 7.98 million copies in 2004.
Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” was also the best-selling U.S. single of 2011 at 5.81 million downloads.
In Britain, album sales fell 5.6 percent to 113.2 million in 2011, according to figures from industry body BPI published earlier this week.
Digital album sales rose 26.6 percent to 26.6 million while CD sales slumped 12.6 percent to 86.2 million.
The singles market rose 10 percent to 177.9 million.
Geoff Taylor, BPI chief executive, warned of the possible consequences of the ongoing decline in British music sales, which have seen the UK fall behind Germany in the world rankings.
He called on the government to take tougher action against online piracy, the music industry’s single biggest challenge.
“Unless decisive action is taken in 2012, investment in music could fall again — a creative crunch that will destroy jobs and mean the next Adele may not get her chance to shine on the world stage,” Taylor said.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato