Sales of digital download albums and singles saw solid growth in the UK during 2011 but failed to stave off an overall decline in the market, new figures from industry body the BPI reveal today.

During the year, UK sales of digital albums grew by 26.6% to 26.6 million, and 15 albums sold more than 100,000 digital copies. However, CD album sales declined 12.6% year-on-year to 86.2m, and combined sales of digital and physical albums saw an overall drop of 5.6%, to 113.2m.

Digital sales aren’t proving enough to create overall growth, as CDs are still by far the preferred way of buying music in the UK. CDs accounted for 76.1% of total sales, while downloads took a 23.5% market share and vinyl clung on with just 0.3%.

The singles market is in rude health however, with 10% growth overall. The dominance of digital here is indisputable – downloads accounted for 99.3% of all singles purchases in 2011. Meanwhile, download gift vouchers received over Christmas prompted what the BPI says was the best week ever for digital sales in the final week of the year, with 1 million albums and 5.7 million singles downloads.

While downloads may be growing fast, the question remains as to whether the music industry will be able to turn around its overall decline. In today’s BPI press release, Chief Executive Geoff Taylor blames the UK government.

“While other countries take positive steps to protect their creative sector, our Government is taking too long to act on piracy, while weakening copyright to the benefit of US tech giants.

“The UK has already fallen behind Germany as a music market. Unless decisive action is taken in 2012, investment in music could fall again – a creative crunch that will destroy jobs and mean the next Adele may not get her chance to shine on the world stage.”

Of course, the practice of suing consumers for illegal downloads rather than offering worthwhile legal alternatives back in the early days of music downloads probably accounts its fair share of the blame too, eh Geoff?