After four years of decline US CD sales rose 5.3 per cent in 2004.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) tried to minimise the news, saying that total overall shipments (of all music formats) was still down 21 per cent against 1999 - making this a relatively stygian outcome in comparison to previous glory years.

Across all formats the number of retail units shipped rose by 4.4 per cent against 2003, while "just under 140 million licensed music downloads" took place in the US.

The US news follows positive results for the UK music industry, which grew 4.5 per cent last year, with downloads reaching nine million units.

The UK has the world's highest per-capita music buying rate.