UK music download sales are exploding said industry grouup the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) yesterday.

The BPI and Official Chart Company combined the UK digital download and physical singles sales charts together for the first time this week on Sunday April 17.

Describing the move as a: "historic day for the UK music industry", the BPI revealed that, "2005's download sales have already exceeded 2004's 12-month total". UK sales of single track downloads from January 1 to April 16 totalled 5,263,995 - the majority of these through iTunes.

Singles market volume doubles overnight

Combining the chart has "virtually doubled volume in the singles market", said the BPI. There were 383,000 single track downloads sold last week compared with 393,000 physical singles.

The first Number One in the all-new Official UK Singles Chart is (Is This The Way To) Amarillo by Tony Christie featuring Peter Kay which scored the number one slot in terms of both downloads and physical sales.

Indie labels benefit, says BPI

The BPI also moved to allay criticism that the independent labels are under represented in the new chart, saying: "The physical-only singles chart would have featured seven independent label songs. The addition of downloads brings that total to eight (of the top 40)".

BPI chairman Peter Jamieson said: "Independents have always been among the UK’s most innovative record companies. The BPI has stepped up its efforts enormously in recent months to help independents prepare for the chart merger, and I congratulate the independent community on its strong performance in this debut chart."