Apple UK achieved excellent results during the last (December) quarter, with one-in-six iPods sold over the Christmas period worldwide shifting in the UK market, Macworld UK has learned.

It appears that in the region of 125,000 iPods were sold in the UK – the largest market for the product in Europe. This means the UK accounts for 17 per cent of global iPod sales.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs revealed that the company shipped 730,000 iPods in the Christmas quarter (final results of which will be revealed tonight during Apple's financial results call).

The company has shifted over two million of its market leading music players since launch. iPod now holds 31 per cent of the global MP3 player market by units and 55 per cent by revenues, according to figures for October and November shared by Jobs during his keynote speech.

Jobs also told the keynote crowd: "By enabling music lovers to carry their entire music library with them at all times, iPod is clearly changing the way we enjoy our music, much the way the Sony Walkman did decades ago.

These statistics underline the importance Apple may attach to launching its iTunes Music Store service in the UK and Europe, which together constitute the third largest music market.

Apple UK's success in getting iPods into consumer's pockets reflects a resurgence in consumer interest in music in the UK. Official UK music sales figures released this week to Music Week show that album sales here rose by 7.6 per cent, with 121 million artist album sales – not including compilations – an all-time high for album sales in this territory.

Singles slump

Reports last week also claimed that gig attendance in 2003 was also on the rise, driven by huge events including Glastonbury 2003 and Robbie Willliams' massively-attended series of gigs at Knebworth last year.

The UK's Performing Rights Society (PRS) – the group that distributes performance royalties to artists – reports that it expects to net £10 million for 2003; this is the highest revenue the society has collected in the 90 years since its inception.

PRS director John Axon told XFM: "It has been an exceptional year on the concert front - the best ever for revenues." Interest in music is reawakening in the UK.

Despite this, the singles market remains in decline as UK consumer activity favours purchasing albums after considering singles heard on radio, TV and online. It is a classic 'price-is-right' scenario, as album prices (particularly in supermarkets and online retailers) fall underneath the critical £10 'sweet' point, making music more approachable

It is thought some Web retailers may have been selling so-called grey imports to consumers through their sites, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) today announced an investigation into a number of Web retailers, including Amazon US to find out if they are breaking the law by selling CDs sourced from outside Europe.

The spike in album sales and the acceptance by UK consumers of Apple's iPod could potentially translate into major digital music sales through iTunes Music Store, once that service launches here, assuming Apple's UK roll-out plans are not subsumed into a pan-European deal with music copyright owners.