New interim figures published today by the IFPI reveal a slowing in the rate of decline for global recorded music shipments. The estimated retail value of the worldwide industry in the first half of 2

New interim figures published today by the IFPI reveal a slowing in the rate of decline for global recorded music shipments.

The estimated retail value of the worldwide industry in the first half of 2004 totalled $13.9 billion, down 1.3% from the same period last year, according to the IFPI. Comparatively, the global market in the first half of 2003 registered a 10.9% slide from 2002.

The IFPI also reports that the global market in the six months ended June 2004 registered unit growth of 1.7% to more than 1.2 billion audio and video discs shipped.

Shipments of CD albums fell just 1.1% in value, while the value of the singles format declined by 16.6%. CD albums account for 85.3% of the total market, while singles make up 4.5%.

According to the IFPI, the numbers represent the smallest first-half drop since 2000. The second half typically accounts for 60% of annual sales.

Analysts at UBS supported the results. "This data is further evidence that music markets are recovering and underpins our fundamental 'Buy' rating on EMI," the investment bank says in a memo to investors.

The U.S. market led the recovery, bolstered by strong album releases, retail promotions and value-added products, according to the IFPI. In the first half, the United States generated year-on-year growth of 3.9% in value to more than $5 billion and 5% in volume to more than 368 million units.

By region, the North American market rose 3.6% in value to $5.3 billion, and Latin America saw a 23.5% value growth to $0.4 billion. Asia was down slightly to $3 billion. The European market registered the weakest comparative result, slipping 7.7% in value to $4.8 billion.

The performances registered by the individual top-10 markets were a mixed bag, according to the IFPI report. In value terms, Germany and Canada showed "a substantial reduction" in their rate of decline, while Spain, Italy and the Netherlands remained "weak." Japan registered flat results. Meanwhile, the French and Australian markets -- which have proved buoyant in recent years -- experienced declines.

The report condenses data from 60 territories selected from the more than 65 surveyed by the trade body on an annual basis.

DVD music video was a major contributor to the positive global results, climbing 26.6% in value overall to account for 7.2% of total sales. The IFPI was also encouraged by growth in the legitimate download sector. "There are some signs that the world's markets are beginning to recover, boosted by the continued growth of DVD music video, digital sales and added-value releases," comments IFPI chairman/CEO Jay Berman.

"However, markets continue to be hampered by the dual effects of commercial and Internet piracy," Berman warns. Although download figures are not currently included in the official industry figures, Berman says the flourishing legitimate online music marketplace was "a distinctly positive sign."

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