The French recorded music industry is showing no encouraging signs.

The wholesale value for the first quarter of 2007 dropped to €172 million ($235 million), down 24% from the same period last year, according to trade association SNEP. The volume of the market also declined by a similar margin. This follows a 14% drop for the year 2006.

In a press conference held Tuesday in Paris, SNEP president and Sony BMG France chairman/CEO Christophe Lameignère partly attributed these poor results to a lack of frontline album releases during Q1.

However, he acknowledged that SNEP's initial forecast of an 8% drop for the overall 2007 French market seemed "very optimistic."

There was more cause for alarm in the market for digital music, which dropped 2.3% in the first quarter to €11 million ($15 million).

The slump is mainly due to a 29.8% drop in ringtones sales, "which is no surprise to us", SNEP director general Hervé Rony told, adding that the ringtone market was not expected to grow further.

Internet downloads grew only 5.8% to €4.4 million ($6 million), while the smaller market of mobile downloads jumped 157% to €1.2 million ($1.6 million).

Rony attributed the small growth on paid downloads to a rather accommodating political attitude towards illegal downloads. The DADVSI law on copyright, voted on Aug. 6, 2006, might have come too late, he said.