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European download market sees big growth in 2011

Rihanna - among Europe's favourite download artists

New Nielsen Music figures reveal 20.93m additional singles were sold in the first six months of 2011 - increasing the market from 149.20m to 169.95m units - compared to the year before in the 30 European territories the company monitors.

With 384 digital services providing data, all but one of the leading countries surveyed experienced double-digit year-on-year percentage growths.

These included Germany, which last year held on to its claim as Europe's biggest music market with sales up nearly 20%. Neighbouring Switzerland experienced even better growth: its digital sector expanded by almost 40% to overtake Italy - with only the UK, Germany and France now commanding bigger singles sales.

Nielsen Music managing director in Europe Jean Littolff says the digital downloading of single songs is booming in Europe. "With 170 million digital singles downloaded during the first half of the year, this growth of 15% on last year is positive for a music industry which is experiencing a well-documented drop in physical revenues."

Adele's incredible sales run back home was matched across much of Europe as she sold more digital singles over the half year (3.22m) than any other artist, ahead of Rihanna (2.66m), Bruno Mars (2.64m) and Lady GaGa (2.36m).

However, Adele's sales were split across several titles, most notably Rolling In The Deep and Someone Like You. Thus, on Nielsen's pan-European digital sales chart for the period (Nielsen only counts individual download single purchases, combining the ISRCs for the country charts; if a song is bought as part of an album purchase these figures are not included within reporting) she found herself outsold by hits from both Jennifer Lopez and Bruno Mars.

Lopez's Universal-issued single On The Floor featuring Pitbull recorded 1.41m Europe-wide sales, putting it just 20,000 ahead of Warner act Bruno Mars in second place with Grenade.

XL's Adele singles Rolling In The Deep and Someone Like You crop up in third and sixth places, having sold respectively 1.26m and 1.07m units in the first six months.

Eight singles in total were recognised by Nielsen as having shifted more than one million units digitally across the six months, five of which were Universal releases.

Besides On The Floor, they took in Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett & GoonRock (1.21m), Rihanna's S&M (1.05m), Born This Way by Lady GaGa (1.01m) and Jessie J featuring B.o.B.'s Price Tag, whose 1.16m European sales made it one of only four tracks by UK artists in the half-year Top 20.

Taio Cruz, also Universal, joined Adele and Jessie J with Higher finishing in 17th place after selling almost 600,000 copies.

Universal had eight of the Top 20 sellers outright, Sony and EMI three each, Warner and XL Beggars two apiece and there were two tracks whose label control varied across the continent. Europe's overall three top titles were also the three biggest sellers in Germany, albeit in a different order with Grenade at one, On The Floor in second place and Rolling In The Deep third.

Despite reclaiming the crown of Europe's top music territory last year, according to the IFPI, Germany remained significantly behind the UK in digital sales with the German download market about half the size in 2010 than the UK's.

In terms of one-track sales, the UK continues to dwarf Germany and in the first half of 2011 was responsible for 47% of the European market, according to Nielsen.

Littolff adds, "With almost 50% of Europe's digitally download single songs, the UK remains Europe's largest market - and alongside the US provides the pan- European chart with its best sellers."

However, Germany is starting to catch up with the 19.4% year-on-year growth in digital singles sales reported by Nielsen in the first 26 weeks of this year compared to the Official Charts Company revealing the UK singles market expanded over the same period by 10.5%.

Even though Germany's percentage sales increase is getting on for being twice that of the UK, it is still significantly behind. The country made up 16% of Europe's digital singles market up to the beginning of July this year, compared to 15% across the whole of last year, with halfyear sales this year growing from 22.78m to 27.19m units.

See Music Week for full report

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