The Japanese music market -- the world's second-biggest - continued heading south in the first half of 2008, at least in terms of shipments of physical product.

According to data released today by the Recording Industry Assn. of Japan (RIAJ), production of prerecorded audio software by the labels body's 46 member companies in the first six months of 2008 totaled 122.1 million units, down 6% from the corresponding period of 2007. At the same time, the wholesale value was ¥147 billion ($1.4 billion), also down 6%.

Production of domestic repertoire declined 3% to 93.9 million units, for a value of ¥115.1 billion ($1.1 billion), down 2%. The story for foreign repertoire was decidedly worse, as a lack of major releases by major international acts caused production to slip 13% to 28.2 million units, while wholesale value fell 19% to ¥31.9 billion ($302.3 million).

Meanwhile, production of music-related videos and DVDs in the January-June half rose 8% to 27.2 million units, for a wholesale value of ¥34.8 billion ($330.1 million), up 35%.

The RIAJ is scheduled to release first-half digital sales data soon, which should bring some much-needed welcome news to the local biz.