Music sales fall again in 2011, but optimism grows

Mon Jan 23, 2012 9:20am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Digital music revenues rose eight percent in 2011 to $5.2 billion, but it was not enough to prevent another annual decline in the overall market to $16.2 billion from $16.7 billion in 2010.

Figures released on Monday by record industry body the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) confirmed expectations that a downward trend which began in the late 1990s continued last year.

The good news was that the 2011 decline of around three percent was smaller than the eight percent drop in 2010, and there were signs that the industry was finally beginning to get on top of the rampant online piracy it blames for its woes.

Record label bosses were cautiously optimistic that music revenues would finally return to growth in 2013, a view not shared by everyone in the business.

"The future is looking extremely bright. Has the industry turned a corner? I'm definitely more positive now than I've ever been," said Rob Wells, president of global digital business at Universal Music Group, the world's biggest label.

"I think 2013 is probably a safe bet," he told an IFPI briefing in London. "However, despite all the good news, still great effort needs to be put on the piracy problem that still exists."

Edgar Berger, president and CEO International at Sony Music Entertainment, added: "I think the environment is changing favorably and we're going from headwind to tailwind."

Frances Moore, chief executive of the IFPI, said major legal digital music services spread dramatically last year to 58 countries from 23 in 2010.   Continued...

<p>Rob Wells, Senior Vice President, Digital, at Universal Music Group International, answers a question from the media during the launch of Singtel's AMPed music service in Singapore June 14, 2009. REUTERS/Tim Chong</p>