UK online music sales to be included in singles charts

The U.K. music industry plans to take into account the sale of legal online music downloads in preparing its traditional weekly top 40 singles sales list from early next year.

According to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), a trade group representing U.K. record companies, the market for legally downloaded music is helping to revitalize the ailing music single market. In the third quarter of this year, about 1.75 million download tracks were sold, compared with 7.3 million singles, the BPI said Friday.

The market for legal downloads has taken off in the last year, fuelled in large part by the success of digital music players such as the iPod from Apple Computer and the launch of online music stores like Apple's iTunes, Connect from Sony and Napster. Download sales are currently running at around 250,000 a week, the BPI said, and are expected to grow even faster around the holiday season as people give digital music players as gifts.

According to the BPI, if the sale of online music singles had been included in its figures, the overall singles market would have grown by 9 percent when compared to the second quarter. Instead, it posted a 12 percent decline for the period.

As with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in the U.S., the BPI has been aggressive in its campaign against individuals illegally sharing music online. Last month, the BPI successfully sued a number of U.K. ISPs (Internet service providers), forcing them to disclose the names and addresses of 28 people it believed to have uploaded music files on to filesharing networks.

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