Inside track: Jeff Clark-Meads, music industry consultant

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Two things are happening to the albums market. One is the growth of downloads, which for any bricks-and-mortar retailer is about as useful as the true spirit of Christmas. The other is the fact that last year more CDs were sold in the UK than ever before; and this year has started off pretty well, too.

But, there is a new quality to the CD market. For non-specialist retailers, the telly factor is driving sales. This has been a trend that began with TV talent show Pop Idol, where featured acts score heavily with buyers in supermarkets, especially at celebratory times of year.

It was manifest again in the first quarter of this year when bright record companies released albums from mum-friendly X-Factor contestants Journey South and Andy Abraham in time for Mother's Day and found they sold half-a-million copies between them.

Even at other times of the year, an appearance on TV in any context - especially where music is concerned - will boost sales. Any act featured on The Brits can expect to double normal album sales between nomination and the end of the week after the show is broadcast.

The record industry argues that sales of physical albums are being boosted by downloading simply because tracks online bring more music to the attention of more people, but computer-accessed music has devastated two areas of the record market.

Sales of compilations are in freefall. Instead of buying the finished compilation, people are going to download sites and putting together the album they most want on their MP3 player. The result is both cheaper - even at legal download rates - and more to the individual's taste.

The other market disappearing is singles. Gone are the days when teenagers would queue in the rain outside a shop for the new 'Girl Snot' single. They now rarely move further than their laptop to get it. According to first-quarter figures from record industry trade association the BPI, 78% of singles are now downloaded.
For non-specialist retailers, this is more than compensated for by the rise in sales of music DVDs. In the first three months of this year, according to the BPI, the format resulted in 1.5 million units sold. And the top act was broadcast-friendly James Blunt.

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