Gloom Settles on Global CD Sales

The global slump in music sales gathered pace in 2002, music industry figures have revealed.

Sales dropped by 7% around the world last year after a 5% dip in 2001, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

The industry's inability to beat what it has labeled internet pirates and the "massive proliferation" of CD copying have been blamed.

The IFPI recently said "piracy" put the jobs of 600,000 people in the industry at risk.

Other factors in the slump were economic uncertainty and competition from DVDs and video games, the IFPI said.

But sales of music DVDs – up 58% – provided one note of optimism.

Stars including Madonna, Eminem, Sir Elton John and Britney Spears have all condemned unauthorised downloading, with Oasis branding fans who downloaded their latest album "thieves".

The United States suffered a 10% drop in album sales in 2002, mainly because fans were getting the music from the internet instead, the IFPI said.

Fewer major releases are selling in their multi-millions in the US, and record companies are trying to get to grips with the problem.

Rapper 50 Cent is leading sales in the US in 2003

Rock group Linkin Park imposed strict security on their latest album, Meteora, avoiding internet leaks – and going to number one last week, selling 800,000 copies.

Their 2001 debut sold 4.8 million copies in the US – but was reported to have been downloaded up to another eight million times.

In 2003, some albums are bucking the trend, with rapper 50 Cent selling four million copies in two months despite being leaked onto the internet.

Western European sales fared "relatively well", with France continuing to buck the global downward trend, the figures showed.

In the UK, a 3% drop ended five years of growth.

"Widespread use of illegal sites, made easier with the growth of broadband access in the major markets, is affecting an industry that is also having to compete with increased sales of other entertainment formats such as DVD films and new video game consoles."

Worldwide music sales amounted to $32bn (£20.5bn), according to the figures.

There were also "exciting new opportunities" for the music industry, which was making headway in the battle against "piracy", Mr. Berman said.

Other rays of light included the growth of new formats such as DVD Audio and Super Audio CDs, and a "very strong" release schedule.

Technology consultant Bill Thompson said individual fans who download songs should not be branded criminals, and that the growth of the internet may not be to blame for the slump.

"It's too easy for them to say that everyone who downloads is a pirate, but they should really only use that word for the larger scale organised criminals who make fake CDs and DVDs, not the home user," he said.

"If the record companies had given us a properly-priced, good quality music download service instead of just trying to hold on to the CD market we would all be happier now," he said.

The decline could also be explained by the fact that fewer CDs are being released and fans have finished replacing their vinyl albums with CDs, he said.

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