Sales rose 0.3 percent to $16.5 billion in 2012, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which represents some 1,400 record companies worldwide.
The growth may be modest, but for an industry that appeared to be in terminal decline as it also battled against rampant Internet piracy, it was almost cause to break into song.
“It is hard to remember a year for the recording industry that has begun with such a palpable buzz in the air,” said Frances Moore, chief executive of the London-based IFPI.
“These are hard-won successes for an industry that has innovated, battled and transformed itself over a decade.
“They show how the music industry has adapted to the Internet world, learned how to meet the needs of consumers and monetised the digital marketplace.”
The IFPI said paid-for digital music downloads from sites such as Apple’s iTunes, along with other new sources of revenue, had finally grown enough to compensate for the decline of CD sales.
Digital revenues grew by nine percent in 2012, the organisation said, bringing their share of total industry revenues to 34 percent.
Across the world, 4.3 billion songs and albums were downloaded in 2012.
The IFPI also said subscription-based Internet music services such as Spotify and Rhapsody had leapt 44 percent last year, giving them 20 million users worldwide.
Some subscription services allow users to listen to songs for free with adverts played every few minutes, while others provide advertising-free music for a monthly fee.
But the IFPI admitted that the industry still faces “major hurdles” in adjusting to the Internet age.
“Our markets remain rigged by illegal free music,” said Moore.
“This is a problem where governments have a critical role to play, in particular by requiring more cooperation from advertisers, search engines, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and other intermediaries.”
The IFPI figures revealed that Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepsen topped the global singles chart for 2012 with her single “Call Me Maybe”, followed by Gotye’s “Somebody I Used To Know”.
South Korean sensation Psy came third with “Gangnam Style”, which made history in December when it became the first YouTube video to be viewed a billion times.
British soul diva Adele’s album “21”, meanwhile, became the first record to top the global album sales chart for a second year running.