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Best week ever for digital music downloads

The 'dying' music industry had a chipper post-Christmas week with consumers buying 55.74 million digital songs, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

The download frenzy was fuelled by people redeeming gift cards for services such as iTunes.

According to Billboard, the post-Christmas week digital song haul helps bring 2012's overall  (digital + disc) song sales sum to a record 1.336 billion, or 5% up on 2011 (also a record).

On Billboard's Digital Songs chart, a record 48 songs sold more than 100,000 downloads last week, including Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble," with 582,000 sold. That is the fourth-largest sales week ever for a song, Billboard says.

Record companies are also collecting royalties from all-you-can eat music streaming services such as Spotify (recently launched in NZ) and internet radio stations like Pandora (also recently launched here), plus the lucrative cellphone ringtone market.

The rise is credited to the expansion of legal music download services, plus wider adoption of smartphones and tablets.

Things aren't totally rosy in the music industry.

Beyond the hordes who have turned to illegal downloads, services like iTunes have pushed singles over more lucrative (if often filler-filled) albums.

Forbes says that between 1999 and 2009, total review cratered 56%, says Forbes. 

But since then, things have turned around, with digital+disc sales seeing a rise in the total music market.

Click table to enlarge.

A mid-2012 PwC survey of the NZ music industry said total recorded music sales were $59 million in 2011 ($20 million digital and $39 million disc, reflecting the global trend), down from $82 million in 2007.

The consultancy was picking a flat 2012 with $61 million recorded music sales revenue but the percentage of digital rising (to $27 million).

And from next year, PwC is picking a modest increase in the total market as digital sales account for a majority of sales for the first time.