Universal Music Group remained the recorded-music market leader in 2003, according to figures supplied today by international trade body the IFPI.

Universal Music Group remained the recorded-music market leader in 2003, according to figures supplied today by international trade body IFPI.

Universal posted a 23.5% share last year, down from 25.4% in 2002. Companies posting year-on-year gains in 2003 were EMI at 13.4% (12.2%), BMG at 11.9% (9.6%), and Warner Music at 12.7% (11.8%). Sony Music's global share slipped to 13.2% from 13.8%.

The figures show that BMG and Sony had an aggregate share of 25.1% last year. In 2002, a combined Sony-BMG would have claimed a 23.4% share, second only to Universal.

London-based EMI moves up one rank to become the world's second-largest record company, ahead of Sony, Warner and BMG, respectively.

According to the figures, EMI enjoyed a significant recovery in North America, where its share improved to 10.5% in 2003 from 8.9% in 2002. It also posted growth in Europe, Japan, Asia and Australasia. In a statement, EMI says "it has achieved its market share gain without sacrificing profitability." Contributing to EMI's growth in 2003 were albums from Coldplay, the Beatles and Norah Jones.

A Universal Music International spokesperson explains that the company's market-share decline comes on the back of a banner year in 2002, during which major acts such as Eminem, U2, Shania Twain, Andrea Bocelli and Elton John released new albums. "That was not the case in 2003," says the spokesperson, pointing out that 2004 has been a very good year so far. Universal has releases scheduled this year from U2, John, Black Eyed Peas, 50 Cent, and Bocelli.

BMG's figures for both years include Zomba, the company it acquired in November 2002. BMG's performance was boosted by international successes by the likes of Avril Lavigne, Pink, Dido, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake.

Independents collectively still represent the largest global share, with 25.3%, down from 27.1% in 2002. IFPI head of research Keith Jopling says the indie share is calculated by subtracting the major companies' share from the total share. It does not include repertoire licensed to majors.

The methodology used to compile the shares has not changed since IFPI first published market-share figures for 2001, explains Jopling. It is based on the notion of "owned content," which he says has become the accepted standard. "Owned content" qualifies as wholesale sales of finished music product by the record companies to retailers or to intermediate wholesalers, net of returns and discounts and exclusive of exports.

Jopling notes that the figures are for sales of physical music products, which includes music video formats (VHS and DVD) this year for the first time. At the moment, the figures do not include downloads, but "we are working on that," says Jopling.

In September, IFPI will publish market share figures on a territory basis.