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Canadian Consumers Increase Music Buying Habits For First Time Since 1998

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — The Canadian music industry had first year-over-year increase in consumer music buying habits since 1998 as 2004 numbers released by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) indicate a modest market upturn in shipments of music to retail outlets.

"This is encouraging," comments CRIA President Graham Henderson. "I think this breakthrough is the combination of a never-say-die attitude in the music community and a receptive Canadian public. The artistic output last year was nothing short of brilliant. The labels produced a near miraculous result with innovative marketing techniques amid record levels of piracy. Canadians are returning to the stores to support our artists and to try the new products being marketed.

"The numbers are, of course, nowhere near sales levels prior to the advent of widespread online piracy in Canada," notes Henderson, "and we can only guess what sales would have been absent that piracy."

The total, year-to-date number of shipped units (including VHS, DVDs, singles, and CDs) has risen five per cent. Significant gains were realized in the number of DVDs shipped – up 24 per cent – and of CDs. The VHS and singles categories suffered declines of 45 and 40 per cent, respectively. Total value of sales was up one per cent. The gap between shipments and value is largely attributable to a drop in CD prices recently.

These numbers represent net shipments by CRIA members to brick and mortar retailers. They are not to be confused with the statistics for Canada's total retail market that have demonstrated a $465 million drop in retail sales between 1999 and 2003. The total retail market figures for 2004 will be available later this year.

"Archambault experienced a very good year at retail, and there is no doubt that one of the main reasons for this is that Canadians have a strong sense of fair play. Unauthorized file-sharing violates fair play. Canadians are starting to rally behind artists. They know theft is wrong and they are slowly but surely returning to retail," adds CRIA Member Natalie Larivière, president and director General, Groupe Archambault inc.

"While these numbers are encouraging, we can't forget the terrible cost of the last few years in terms of artists' careers that, because of illegal file-sharing, sputtered out or never even got off the ground," Henderson laments. "Over a six-year period, in a virtually lawless environment, our market has lost 30 per cent and we should not be fooled into thinking the worst is necessarily over. Copyright reform remains vital and at the top of our agenda."

"That being said," he concludes, "I'm pleased that our members, the recording labels, have shown themselves to be everything their detractors said they weren't. Although we can't unmake what has happened in the last six years, CRIA members are innovative, resilient and doggedly determined to survive. I am also strongly optimistic about the prospects for the online marketplace in 2005, particularly if Ottawa comes through with its promises to bring copyright legislation in to the 21st century." –Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner