Spanish labels body Promusicae believes the only hope of survival for Spain's crumbling music business is that the government delivers on its proposed anti-piracy legislation.

The legislation, if finally approved by parliament later in the year, will enable the blocking of Web sites that facilitate illegal, unauthorized downloading.

In practice, this will be Spain's first ever legislation to tackle illegal downloading. Promusicae president Antonio Guisasola said "we hope the present government continues with the process that has just begun so that Spain ceases to be a sad exception, and places itself on the level of its European neighbors."

Guisasola was referring to the presentation in London of IFPI's annual Digital Music Report for 2010 (Billboard.biz, Jan. 21). Promusicae is IFPI's Spanish affiliate, and Guisasola pointed out that "lamentably" Spain received a disproportionate amount of negative comment at the presentation for having "the greatest piracy problem of all European markets". IFPI said that together with France and Brazil, Spain is "suffering acutely" from piracy.

Spanish recorded music sales fell 17% in 2009, when Spaniards spent €211 million at retail ($297 million), compared to €254.4 million ($358 million) in 2008.

After nine consecutive years of falling sales since 2001, Promusicae said the "total drop in this period is a blood-curdling 71.46%."

Promusicae did acknowledge that in 2009 there had been "a hopeful although timid 10.5% increase" in Spanish digital sales, but added "this figure is from any angle insufficient to compensate the fresh [2009] collapse of 20.6% in physical sales."

IFPI's report said "the Spanish [music] market faces the second decade of the 21st century in the most precarious situation in its history", and blames a "state-tolerated apathy towards illegal file-sharing."

Spanish artists are those who have come off worse as a result of the sales slump. Unit sales of Spanish artists fell by 65% between 2004 and 2009, said IFPI. Furthermore, in 2009 and for the first time, there was not a single debutant Spanish artist in the top 50 list of albums sold in Spain.

In 2008, there was just one, flamenco-pop singer Pitingo. As recently as 2003, no fewer than 10 of the top 50 artists were new Spanish musicians with debut albums.

Promusicae referred in its note to a 2009 Jupiter Research report, which showed that 32% of Spanish Internet users shared P2P files to acquire music illegally. This is more than double the European average of 15%, Promusicae said.

Guisasola concluded "the [IFPI] report reflects, once again, the critical situation in which the Spanish music sector finds itself, and clearly signals the reasons that have brought us this far: the generalization of online piracy, and the negligence of the authorities in recognizing and attacking the problem."