Britain notches 500 millionth digital download

Apple CEO Steve Jobs speaks in London during the launch of the European iTunes online music store, June 15, 2004. REUTERS/Matt Dunham

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain recently passed the 500-million mark for digital music downloads, and figures out this year suggest another record total in 2010, according to the Official Charts Company (OCC).

Industry leaders said the figure was all the more impressive given the level of online music piracy which has robbed record labels and their artists of billions of dollars in recent years.

“There are nearly 70 legal music services, more than any other country, and consumers continue to embrace the choice, value and innovation on offer,” said Geoff Taylor, chief executive of music industry body BPI.

“Five hundred million downloads is an astonishing achievement especially given the ongoing backdrop of widespread illegal downloading the music industry still faces.”

OCC data published on Thursday showed that by the end of August this year, 102 million legal downloads had been recorded, suggesting a total in 2010 of around 170 million.

That would be up on 2009’s 150 million and 2008’s 110 million, although some executives at major labels have expressed concern about the slowing rate of growth in downloads at a time when physical album sales are declining steadily.

The biggest selling single of 2010 so far in Britain is Owl City’s “Fireflies” which has sold more than 600,000 copies.

Since the beginning of official digital sales data in 2004, the biggest selling download is Black-Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling,” which became the first download to sell a million copies in June this year.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato