The decline in the French music market slowed significantly in 2009, according to initial figures unveiled by labels trade body Snep during MIDEM in Cannes.

Overall, the wholesale market dropped 3.2% to €587.8 million ($827.2 million), compared with a 15% drop the year before.

Physical sales dropped 3.4% to €512 million ($720.5 million), while digital sales also dropped 1.9% to €75.8 million ($106.7 million). However, the digital fall is mainly due to a 41% drop in ringtone sales.

Internet downloads were up 56%, while the streaming market multiplied by 2.4 in terms of value. In 2009, digital represented 12.9% of the wholesale market.

The respectable results mainly come from a surprisingly positive second half of the year, with a 9.3% raise compared to the same period in 2008. The rise was 14% in Q3 and 7% in Q4. These results come after years of strong decline for the French recording industry,

In an SCPP press gathering in Paris last week, Universal France CEO and SCPP President Pascal Nègre dismissed in advance the idea that the market's decent results would largely come from massive sales of Michael Jackson records. He suggested the widely covered debates on the Hadopi three-strikes law, voted in 2009, could have had a psychological impact on end-users.

Although expressing its satisfaction, Snep remained cautious about the meaning of these figures regarding the health of the market, admitting many record companies had a very strong release schedule for the Holiday Season. In addition, retail market figures unveiled by GfK this week showed a drop of 10.8% on the market.