Album sales have fallen to a new low after Rihanna topped the UK chart with a weekly sale of less than 10,000 copies for the first time since modern statistical records began.
Talk That Talk, the album released by the Barbadian singer last year, returned to the number one slot with sales of just 9,578 CDs and downloads combined.
It is the lowest weekly sales recorded for a chart-topper since market research company Millward Brown began compiling data for the Official Charts Company in February 1994. The previous record low was the 11,981 set by The Cranberries' Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? 947 weeks ago, Music Week said.
The Olympics and a weak Summer release programme were cited as contributory factors behind the poor sales. But whilst digital singles are on the rise, the long-form album format is in a deep slump with sales falling 13.8% in the first half of 2012, according to industry body, the BPI.
Digital downloads now account for 35% of the UK albums market but their take-up, largely through the iTunes store, has failed to make up for the on-going decline in physical CDs.
The record industry hopes that Sunday night’s Olympic Games Closing Ceremony, a global showcase for British music immediately made available as an iTunes album, will kickstart sales. An Autumn schedule of releases by big names including Robbie Williams, The Killers and Mumford & Sons, is expected to make up for some of this year’s lost sales.
Adele’s 21 and Ed Sheeran’s + have boosted all-time UK sales of digital albums past the 100 million milestone. But with streaming services like Spotify luring digital buyers from iTunes, record companies believe that album “plays” should be included in the charts.
A BPI spokesman said: “Digital albums are a growing format for music fans - up 17.5 per cent year-on-year and now account for more than 35 per cent of album sales overall.”
The previous low for a number one album was the 13,430 sales recorded by Emeli Sandé’s Our Version Of Events three months ago. Rihanna’s album sold 163,000 copies in its opening week when it topped the charts last November. It has already been certified double platinum for sales of more than 600,000 copies.
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