The Australian recorded music market shrunk 4.3% in the first six months of this year, according to wholesale figures.

The figures for January to June 2008, released Aug. 14 by the Australian Recording Industry Assn. (ARIA), show overall revenues were $177.9 million Australian ($154.9 million) compared to $185.9 million Australian ($161.8 million) for the same period in 2007.

Album sales dropped 8.4% compared to the first half last year, while revenue from these sales dipped by 10.8% to $131.3 million Australian ($114.3 million).

However, ARIA chairman Ed St John is optimistic about digital music, which experienced massive growth. "The digital figures are suggesting a whole new cycle for the Australian music business," he says. "The decline was slower than last year."

In the 2007 calendar year, the Australian recorded music market fell by 10%.

Digital unit sales climbed 236% to 53.6 million - a leap from 15.9 million unit sales from the same 2007 period. Revenue was up 42.5% to $25.8 million Australian ($22.4 million).

Twelve million tracks were downloaded in the six-month period, compared to eight million for the whole of 2007. Single-track downloads increased by 58% in value to $13.2 million Australian ($11.4 million). Unit sales of digital albums rose by 55% to a value of $5.9 million Australian ($5.1 million). However, CD albums still account for over 95% of album sales.

In other significant trends, music DVD sales were up 13%, with over two million sold this year at a value of $18.7 million Australian ($16.2 million).

"What is also exciting is that domestic acts now account for one third of our sales," adds St John, who is also president and CEO of Warner Music Australasia.

Six Australian acts had a chart-topping single or album in the first six months: Kasey Chambers (Liberation/Warner), Pete Murray (Sony BMG), Gabriella Cilmi (Mushroom/Warner), Gyroscope (Mushroom/Warner), Cut Copy (Modular/Universal) and the Presets (Modular/Universal).