British acts fill albums' top 10
UK acts, led by Ed Sheeran, have filled the entire top 10 of best-selling artist albums over the past 12 months for the first time, according to new figures from the British music industry.
Brit stars - who also include Sam Smith, Olly Murs and heritage act Pink Floyd - have squeezed out US stars from the top-seller list as music sales topped the £1 billion level for a second consecutive year.
Sheeran's album x achieved a total of 1.7 million sales, the biggest one-year total since Adele's 21 in 2011, while Smith's In The Lonely Hour clocked up 1.25 million. In 2013 there were no artists who broke the one million barrier.
Figures for 2014 released by music trade body BPI showed that, for the first time, physical albums accounted for less than half of total album consumption throughout the year, with digital services accounting for 51%.
Digital growth has been led by the explosion of streaming which doubled in the past year, with revenue - calculated from the money generated by subscription services such as Spotify and Deezer - growing to £14.8 million in the UK, and amounting to 15 billion plays. And it now brings in half the £29.7 million revenue of downloads - up from less than a quarter the previous year.
Although CD sales are down nearly 8%, losing five million in a year, the other main physical format vinyl has continued to enjoy a resurgence with almost 1.3 million sales. It marks a 65% increase, with Pink Floyd's The Endless River and Am by Arctic Monkeys among the big sellers, and the figure is the biggest one-year vinyl sale since 1995.
Streaming is predicted to flourish even further this year with Apple expected to give an extra push or a possible relaunch for the Beats service it acquired last year, together with a new music subscription which is set to be launched by YouTube.
The Now That's What I Call Music series continued to generate huge sales with Now 89 the biggest selling compilation of the year - and the third biggest-selling album overall - while the Frozen soundtrack is the second biggest various artists release of 2014.
The data has been compiled by the Official Charts Company which has been unable to find any other Brits-only artist album top 10 in its research.
The best-selling album list has now been topped by a British act for the past 10 years.
Although overall sales are above £1 billion for a second successive year, the figure is down on the 2013 level by 1.3%.
Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, said: "The remarkable success of British artists in 2014 is exciting news for the future. Our record labels are backing home-grown talent like Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and George Ezra, who in turn are catching fire around the world."
Tony Wadsworth, the outgoing chairman of the BPI, said: "The UK recorded music industry invests in a truly global business, as labels continue to find, develop, support and succeed with world class artists making world-class music."
Kevin Brown, the head of label relations at Spotify, said: "We expect streaming to go from strength to strength in 2015, as more music fans discover how easy it is to enjoy a whole world of music on demand."
:: Top selling albums of 2014, according to the Official Charts Company:
1. Ed Sheeran - x
2. Sam Smith - In The Lonely Hour
3. George Ezra - Wanted On Voyage
4. Paolo Nutini - Caustic Love
5. Coldplay - Ghost Stories
6. Paloma Faith - A Perfect Contradiction
7. One Direction - Four
8. Olly Murs - Never Been Better
9. Pink Floyd - The Endless River
10. Take That - III