Music sales fall almost $1,5bn amid increased piracy

Global recorded music sales fell by almost $1,5-billion last year as digital piracy continued to take its toll on the industry, with the UK losing its mantle as the third largest music market after “physical” sales of CDs collapsed by almost a fifth.

Global recorded music revenues fell 8,4% last year, about $1,45-billion, to $15,9-billion according to the annual Recording Industry in Numbers report by international music industry body the IFPI.

Overall physical sales, the term used in the industry for sales of products such as CDs, fell by 14,2% year-on-year to $10,4-billion.

Digital revenues grew by 5,3% year-on-year to $4,6-billion to account for 29% of all recorded music revenues. However, the rate of digital revenue growth has halved year-on-year as the industry continues to struggle with piracy and winning consumers over to legal download models.

The world’s two largest markets, the US and Japan, took a hammering last year accounting for 57% of the total global decline in trade revenues. In 2009 the two countries accounted for 80% of the global decline.

In the US overall sales fell by 10% with physical sales down 20% to just over $2-billion and digital sales stagnating with 1,2% growth to $2-billion. Japan saw an overall market decline of 8,3% with the report noting that “rapidly rising online is threatening the development of the digital market”.

The UK, which had managed growth in 2009 leading some to believe a “tipping point” had been reached where digital sales take up the slack of declining physical revenues, was overtaken last year by Germany as the third largest music market.

Overall UK sales were $1,38-billion, down about $170-million or 11% year-on-year, thanks to a 19,2% fall in physical sales to $920-million. Sales through digital channels boomed by 19,6% to $347-million.

In Europe digital revenue growth increased by an impressive 21,6% with most major markets — including Germany, France, Italy and The Netherlands — seeing double digit increases.

“The demand for new music seems as insatiable and diverse as ever, and record companies continue to meet it,” said Frances Moore, chief executive of the IFPI. “But they are operating at only a fraction of their potential because of a difficult environment dominated by piracy.”

Of the major markets ranking in the top 20 by size, just three saw year-on-year sales increases with Korea up 11,7%, India up 16,5% and Mexico up 0,9%.

This report does not cover income from music publishing or live music, which is growing. – guardian.co.uk

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