More than 16 million albums were downloaded in 2009, says the BPI.

According to the music industry body, digital album sales were 56 percent up on the previous year and accounted for one in eight of every album sold.

However, despite the rise in album downloads, album sales as a whole are 3.5 percent down on 2008.

Single sales rose to 152 million in 2009, with 98 percent of them being downloaded. The last week of the year saw 4.22 million singles sold, a record high for the entire year.

The BPI said MP3 players received as Christmas presents probably helped sales, as users downloaded their favourite tracks to play on their new audio device.

"Despite difficult trading conditions and the ever-present competition from illegal downloading, UK music sales remained relatively resilient during 2009," said BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor.

"While sales of physical CDs continue to trend downwards, music fans are clearly responding to the explosive growth of digital retailers and outlets selling and streaming music in the UK. 2009's record singles result is clearly encouraging."

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See also: Black Eyed Peas and Kings of Leon iTunes best sellers