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Digital continues to grow, though piracy remains a problem, says the IFPI

By | Published on Tuesday 24 January 2012


Digital music continued to grow in all quarters in 2011, according to the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry’s annual digital music report, published yesterday, which noted that the big digital music services – which include iTunes, Spotify and Deezer – are now operating in 58 countries around the world, compared to 23 in 2010.

That helped assure that single download, digital album and subscription services all saw growth in the last year (single sales up 11% and albums 24% globally), despite some fearing the growth of Spotify et al could have a negative impact on more conventional digital stores like iTunes. It’s thought digital revenues for record companies increased by about 8% worldwide, faster than in 2010, probably aided by the rapid expansion of the streaming services, and in the US that means digital income now exceeds that generated by physical product. Worldwide, digital accounts for about 32% of record sales revenue.

Digital sales are still not compensating for the slump in CD revenue, though the overall decline in the record industry did slow in 2011, to about 3%, possibly encouraging some optimistic thinking that the recorded music sector – in decline for years now – might soon bottom out. Who knows, perhaps there could be growth later this decade? So, why are we still worrying about SOPA, and MegaUpload, and all that three-strikes nonsense?

Well, the IFPI says, in its customary “but the fight against piracy must continue” statement, the steady and continued growth in digital is being helped by the slow crackdown on piracy in some corners of the world, partly by legal efforts – civil and criminal – taking the likes of LimeWire and MegaUpload offline, partly by pressure being put on credit firms to stop taking monies for piracy sites, and partly thanks to new laws that make it easier to send warning letters to file-sharers and to block access to casual web users to unlicensed content sources.

France, Spain and New Zealand were noted as leaders in this domain, and even the US got a good rating in the IFPI’s report, despite anti-piracy proposals SOPA and PIPA untangling as we speak, partly for the US court’s ruling against LimeWire, partly for moves by the American net firms to voluntarily send warning letters to suspected file-sharers, and partly because of last week’s dramatic Mega developments. The UK, despite putting three-strikes onto the statute book in the Digital Economy Act, is viewed less favourably by the global record industry, for still not getting the new anti-piracy system up and running.

A quarter of web users continue to access unlicensed content sources worldwide, IFPI reckoned, so more should be done around the world to deal with piracy, to ensure the continue growth of digital, the revival of the record industry, and the enabling of more commercial investment in new artists, etc etc etc etc. Read the report here.