The UK music industry is making strong progress with digital formats, according to its trade body, the BPI.
The BPI notes that despite the impressive gains in digital music sales, the widely predicted demise of the CD seems "far off"; UK consumers purchased a record 27.9 million artist albums in the first three months of 2006
UK is Europe's 'most advanced digital market'
BPI chairman Peter Jamieson said: "With the announcement of the first download-only number one single last week and the inclusion of downloads in the albums chart this week, the UK record industry can declare that the first part of its mission is now complete."
"We thought it would take three years, but in just 30 months the UK record industry has transformed itself from one that was 100 per cent focused on physical product to the most advanced digital music market in Europe."
Jamieson's comments coincide with the release of sales figures from the Official UK Charts Company that measure "over the counter" sales at retail outlets and digital music services.
Digital sales climb 152 per cent
The figures show that in the first three months of 2006, sales of digital downloads were 152 per cent up on the same period in 2005.
Two weeks ago Gnarls Barkley scored a Number One hit in the UK singles chart on the strength of downloads alone, and has since sold another 73,000 downloads and 121,000 physical singles to stay at number one. This week digital downloads became eligible for the albums chart for the first time.
"Recent successes from Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz and the Arctic Monkeys show how digital can be complementary to physical," said Jamieson. "The lesson of history is that new technology expands the market for music and that is why record companies are so enthusiastically embracing the new digital formats."
Arctic Monkeys are red-hot simians
In the last three months the Arctic Monkeys debut album became the fastest selling debut album of all time with almost 900,000 albums sold in ten weeks, grabbing 2.5 per cent of the quarter's entire albums market.
Digital sales, at 11.5 million units, now comprise 78 per cent of all single tracks sold, compared to only 44 per cent a year ago and 4 per cent in 2004.
This has reinvigorated the singles market, which grew by 44 per cent on the same period in 2005, and digital now accounts for around 50 per cent of all top-40 chart single sales.