The UK music industry continues to defy global trends - it grew 4.5 per cent in 2004.

British music's robustness underlines the vital importance of the territory to the success of digital music download services: the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) estimates the total UK download market exceeded nine million units in 2004, the organization revealed today.

"The arrival of high-profile legitimate digital music services helped lift UK single-track purchasing by 4.0 per cent in 2004 with 5.7 million downloads sold, the British singles market is also showing signs of recovery," it explained. Adding in album and EP sales actual figures exceeded nine million songs.

BPI Chairman Peter Jamieson said: "The main choice today's music fan now has to make is whether to get music legally or illegally. As these figures show, more and more music fans are now making the right choice and helping make great British music."

Brits big spenders

Britons buy on average 3.2 CDs per person per year, the BPI said - the highest global per capita music consumption.

A recovering US market saw per capita sales increase to 2.8 units, while French, German and Japanese buy "around two units each", the organization explained.

The UK releases 26,000 albums per year – second only to the US. With a record 174.6 million units sold, the UK CD albums market continued to outperform its international counterparts in 2004, growing by 4.5 per cent.

Dance to the music

Jameson said: "The strength of the UK market in the face of worldwide decline is a testament to the skills and courage of UK record companies who have never stopped taking risks in signing and developing some of the best talent in the world. Improving prospects for recorded music internationally is also good news for the UK since after the US we remain the world's biggest exporter of music."

However, the global business remained flat in 2004, with the UK outperforming its international rivals.

UK sales have bucked the trend of global decline over the past five years, with market value growing since 2000 by 3.4 per cent. Over the same period the global market dropped 15 per cent.