The French recording market is showing signs of stability, national trade body SNEP said yesterday (Sept. 5) as it revealed first-half market figures for 2005. In the first six months, the volume of s

The French recording market is showing signs of stability, national trade body SNEP said yesterday (Sept. 5) as it revealed first-half market figures for 2005. In the first six months, the volume of shipments increased 5.1% to 61.5 million units while the wholesale value of the market decreased 2.7% year-on-year to €397.8 million ($498.7 million).

Singles shipments continued to decline with a 9.5% drop in units to 11.1 million during the period, for a value of €27.8 million ($34.8 million), down 27%. Albums shipments rose 9.3% in units to 45.9 million, for a value of €329.2 million ($412.6 million), up 0.3%. Video music shipments rose 27.9% in units to 4.3 million for an 8% rise in value to €39.5 million ($49.5 million).

Representatives from Paris-based SNEP said they felt "ambivalent feelings" on the results, given that the figures are indicative of a continued fall in the price of product at retail. Gilles Bressand, SNEP president and CEO of indie label XIII BIS Records, said both labels and retailers have acted on pricing, to the benefit of consumers, but the downside is "lower margins for everybody."

"There is an extreme deterioration of the whole chain of values in the recording industry," added SNEP GM Hervé Rony. "The weakening of retailers is a matter of worry, though it is not characteristic of the music business."

Rony said that a lowering of the VAT rate on records would allow the sale of music at a lower price without affecting margins. SNEP will step up its lobbying efforts before the French government to ensure that this issue will finally be dealt with by the European Union.

SNEP pointed out that digital sales sourced from the Internet and mobile reached €11.3 million ($14.1 million) at the end of June, up from €5.8 million ($7.2 million) at the corresponding period of 2004.

"That is a good (sign), though our margins are much lower on those (records sold digitally)," commented Bressand.

The share of Francophone productions remained relatively buoyant, representing 65% of the market against 66.2% for the corresponding period last year. Classical music was the only genre growing both in volume and value, reaching 5.7% of the market, up from, 5% in 2004.

SNEP noted some encouraging signs in terms of artist contracts. Major companies signed 48 new deals during the semester, while 24 contracts were dissolved.

The trade group also presented its priorities for the forthcoming months. It includes ensuring that the French parliament votes a new copyright law that meets the needs of the industry. France's parliament is due to discuss a new text that will transpose the European Union's Copyright Directive into national law by the end of this year. SNEP also intends to continue lobbying the government on the term of copyright issue.