Music sales decline Down Under

Physical sales drop by double digits

BRISBANE, Australia -- Monster hit album releases from Pink, Kings of Leon, AC/DC and Andre Rieu weren't enough to stem a double-digit physical sales decline Down Under last year, according to official figures published Wednesday by labels body ARIA.

But the Aussie music industry is taking heart from strong gains seen in digital sales, particularly for album formats.

As is the case across the globe, the CD market in Australia last year was on the slide. ARIA's 2008 yearly statistics report shows more than 38.5 million CD album units were shifted, down 12.2%, for a net wholesale value of almost $323.8 Australian ($208 million), down 10.5%.

Sales of digital tracks in the January-December period last year rose 43% in value to more than $26.7 million Australian ($17.1 million) compared with the same period in 2007, on a volume of 23.4 million units, up nearly 33%.

All digital formats -- including ringtones and ringback tunes, digital music video, streams and subscriptions -- sold a combined volume of more than 128.5 million units, up more than 171%, for a value of $54.1 million Australian ($34.8 million), up 35.6%

Sales of digital album bundles led the charge, accounting for more than 2.8 million units, up nearly 262%, and a value increase of $15 million Australian ($9.6 million), up almost 100%.

The market for all music formats amounted to almost 172 million units, up 74.4%. Soaring volumes, however, did not equate to big gains in value, which dropped almost 8% for a total sum of slightly more than $425 million Australian ($273 million).

Aussie industry execs remain optimistic that a strong schedule of releases and heavyweight tours will turn 2009 into a solid campaign. The artists behind all the top five selling albums last year in Australia - Kings Of Leon, Pink, AC/DC, Coldplay and Presets - are features on the local touring circuit this year.

"I think the essential message here is that music is a very resilient product in times of economic instability," said ARIA chairman Ed St John, who is also chairman/CEO of Warner Music Australasia.

"Not only are we seeing strong and consistent growth in digital music, we've also seen a strong surge in spending on music -- both physical and digital -- over the last quarter of 2008 and the first weeks of 2009."

"The Australian music industry of 2009 is leaner, smarter and more diversified," St John said.

He concluded that "all the labels have restructured their operations to provide a better service for artists and consumers," that the business and consumers have embraced online music, while local artists play an instrumental role in the industry's health. "We're excited about the future," he added.