After four years of decline, the French recording market showed signs of stability in 2005.

After four years of decline, the French recording market showed signs of stability in 2005.

According to figures unveiled today (Jan. 17) in Paris by industry trade body SNEP, the wholesale value of the market dropped 3% to €980 million ($1.188 billion), while remaining stable in volume. At retail, sales dropped 8% to 10% in value to "a bit less than €1.5 billion ($1.819 billion)," while remaining stable in volume.

According to SNEP director general Hervé Rony, these figures show that the average CD price at retail declined this year. He adds that prices dropped 15% in the past two years.

Wholesale digital sales sourced from the Internet and mobile reached €30-€35 million ($36.4-$42.4 million), up from €8.5 million ($10.3 million) in 2004. There were 20 million full-track downloads sold through online and mobile music stores, against roughly two million units in 2004.

"The market is stabilizing," says Rony, "and with the rise of online sales, we are starting to compensate the loss on physical sales. The growth on download sales is strong but not skyrocketing though, and it is a long way to recover from the 35% loss in value we experienced in the past four years. But with the major companies' restructuring now accomplished, we can hope that the worst is behind us."

SNEP president Gilles Bressand adds, "record labels now work in a more serene mode and entered a more dynamic business phase."

This year, SNEP is changing its counting methodology and will apply for the first time IFPI's rules, which count a box-set as one item. Until now, SNEP counted the actual number of CDs included in the set. Rony warns that this new system will automatically lead to a market drop in units.

SNEP will release detailed figures on Jan. 23 during the Midem trade show in Cannes.

On a different matter, SNEP revealed that Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin will meet on Thursday (Jan. 19) afternoon with label's trade bodies SNEP and UPFI, authors' rights society Sacem, artists bodies Snac and Unac, two publisher's organizations and retail body SDSD to prepare final arbitration for the new copyright bill to be disclosed on Friday.

SNEP representatives were relatively confident that the door to P2P legalization opened late December would be closed. However, they expressed their worries on potential softening on penalty rules for infringers.