With a growth of 6% to €650 million ($828 million), the Belgian entertainment market had a positive 2008, despite music sales continuing to decline - down 8.7% from €183 million ($233 million) in 2007 to €167 million ($212.7 million) last year.

The figures were compiled by the Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA), GfK retail and Technology Benelux. Olivier Maeterlinck, general manager of BEA, said that "the biggest challenge for the entertainment industry is to further develop the legal online market to offer a secure repertoire to the consumers."

With total sales of €247 million ($314.7 million), the games market enjoyed growth of 25% compared to 2007, mainly by climbing sales of console games, which were up 33%.

Although digital downloads saw a sales increase of 26% to €11.5 million ($14.65 million), it is not enough to compensate for the downward trend of CD sales. Digital sales including mobile downloads account for 8.5% of total music sales.

"Domestic talent sales are crucial here in maintaining the business," explains Maeterlinck. "One in five top selling albums are released by Belgian artists, and in [the region of] Flanders even 40% of the best selling CDs are domestic [acts]."

However, Belgium's 2008 album sales list is headed by U.K. melodic rock act Coldplay's "Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends" (Parlophone/EMI). The top-selling Belgian albums are "Clouseau 20" by Clouseau (EMI), "Vantage Point" by Deus (Universal Music) and "Forever" by Milk Inc (Universal Music).

Meanwhile, the Blu-Ray market achieved sales of €5.3 million ($6.8 million) - an increase of 368%.

BEA's goal for 2009 is to encourage consumers to fully embrace legal digital sales.

"The government, the Internet providers and technology industry all benefit from online sales of music, movies or games," said Erik Vink, chairmain of BEA. "It's essential that the consumer is directed to safe and legal online entertainment, through existing or new channels such as online music shops, interactive TV and online gaming platforms."