The value of the French wholesale recording market fell 16.4% year-on-year during the first three months of 2009 to €118.7 million ($158.6 million), labels trade body Snep reported at a press conference held in Paris.

Physical sales were down 18.5% to €101 million ($134.9 million), but more surprisingly digital sales were also down 1% to €17.6 million ($23.5 million), accounting for 15% of the recorded music market. While Internet downloads rose 13%, to €8 million ($10.7 million), mobile sales decreased 46% overall to €5.3 million ($7.1 million), with mobile downloads dropping 60% to €1.5 million ($2 million).

"The drop on ringtones [that occurred in previous quarters] might have taken away customers from buying music on their phones," said Snep President and Sony Music CEO Christophe Lameignère.

Lameignère said music consumption might also have been driven towards unlimited music offers. Streaming music generated €1.2 million ($1.6 million) in income, almost doubling from last year, while subscription (both from mobile and Internet) generated €3.1 million ($4.1 million), up from €300,000 ($400,750) during Q1 2008.

Overall, today's (May 5) figures showed that local repertoire dropped 26.4%, while international repertoire remained stable (up 0.2%). The figures show that local repertoire represents 64% of the market (classical music excluded).

Although Lameignère said the share of local repertoire had moved up and down during the past years, he warned it could be significantly lower within five years, as the result of some labels cutting investment in new local artists.

French producers still have high expectations of the "Creation and Internet" law, designed to circumvent online piracy, which is currently being discussed at the French Assembly. The law was surprisingly rejected on April 9, after the opposition Socialist Party gathered a dozen deputies at the last moment to outnumber ruling UMP party deputies for the vote.

"This will make us lose a month and a half," commented Lameignère, "but the good thing is that it has exasperated artists who until now had remained quite silent on the topic."

Lameignère referred to an open letter written to Socialist Party secretary general Martine Aubry by four well-known artists, including Juliette Greco and Maxime Le Forestier. While they said they had been supportive of the Socialists in the past, they wrote that "by a strange irony of history, you are now advocating unbridled capitalism against the artists' rights."

However, the opposition to the three-strikes measure continues. This afternoon, the French Assembly had to postpone the vote until next week due to the large amount of amendments - mainly written by Socialist deputies - that require examination. This is unlikely to impact the final vote in itself, but it makes it highly doubtful that the law will be adopted by May 14, as wished by President Nicolas Sarkozy.