Hot off the press this morning are figures from British music industry body the BPI for 2012, with digital album sales rising 14.8% to 30.5m for the year, although that still didn’t quite balance out the 19.5% drop in CD sales to 69.4m.

That means an overall 11.2% fall in UK album sales to 100.5m for the year. However, single-track sales were up 6% to 188.6m in 2012, with 99.6% of those being digital.

There’s another interesting figure though: Brits streamed 3.7bn songs in 2012 from streaming music services like Spotify and Deezer. It’s the first time an annual streaming stat has been released by the Official Charts Company, and as the BPI notes, that 3.7bn streams “is equivalent to 140 music streams for every household in the UK”. This is just audio streams, so doesn’t include YouTube or Vevo.

The figure inserts some perspective into the debate over streaming cannibalisation of downloads: 3.7bn streams, a 14.8% rise in digital album sales and a 6% rise in single-track sales together give us a picture of the digital music market, rather than just focusing on the downloads. Also interesting: a noticeable post-Christmas digital bump with 1.3m digital album sales and 5.6m single sales in the final week of 2012.

What’s important now is to get some good data on what this means for industry revenues, starting with how much money those 3.7bn streams made for the music business (and then how that filtered through to artists and songwriters, obviously), but also where those streams are coming from. In other words, how many lapsed CD buyers have switched to downloads versus streaming, or downloads plus streaming?

Key questions for 2013 after a year described by BPI boss Geoff Taylor as “an encouraging year for UK artists and for music’s digital future”.

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