Albums have a record year
BBC News Online entertainment staff
Pirated CDs are a huge problem,
the BPI says
The number of artist albums sold in the UK in 2003 rose
more than 7% to almost 121 million. Does this mean the
British music industry is beating piracy? Or is it a brief
the music industry has had to deal with tough times over
the last few years.
of CDs have fallen consistently since the late 1990s -
hit by internet downloads the music industry says are
illegal and millions of counterfeit CDs produced by illicit
figures in this week's issue of UK music industry magazine
Music Week show artist albums - excluding compilation
albums - sold 120,968,891 in 2003 - a rise of 7.6% on
the previous year.
attribute part of the upturn to interest in new acts like
The Darkness, The Thrills, Damien Rice and Dizzee Rascal.
figures seem to contradict warnings that piracy is killing
the UK music industry. But the answer, say some music
figures who spoke to BBC News Online, is not so simple.
remains a huge problems in the UK, says Matt Phillips,
a spokesman for the British Phonographic Industry (BPI)
said a common misconception was that '"industrial
piracy" - where CDs are mass produced in illicit
"factories" working round the clock - was an
overseas problem, with pirated CDs being smuggled in from
countries such as the Ukraine and China.
lot of them are produced here in the UK, and they have
links to organised crime. We are finding that there are
often huge networks of distribution.
has become a major CD seller
often there are factories - which are very hard to find
- churning out these CDs 24/7. We are working with trading
standards to try and stop them. Often these criminals
are doing other stuff as well."
decline of the single - which according to the Music Week
figures fell another 30% last year - was a victim not
only of internet downloads, but of the closing gap between
single and album prices.
average price of a single is now about £3.30,"
said Genarro Castaldo, an analyst for retail chain HMV.
can get an album for about £9 or £10 now.
That represents a lot better value."
are also much more aggressive in promoting albums, Mr
Castaldo said, with most chains offering discounts and
sales on various chart albums every month.
is partly a reaction to the new outlets people can buy
their music in, and the fact fierce competition has driven
such as Tesco and Asda are aggressive in their attempts
to sell CDs for the cheapest price possible.
Week executive editor Martin Talbot said the effect of
supermarkets on music sales was a relatively new factor
in the UK.
is only in the last few years that supermarkets in the
UK have been selling large amounts of CDs. They are making
it more and more difficult for the specialist music chains."
Talbot said the supermarkets concentrated on a narrow
range of artists. "They sell a lot of artists such
as Jamie Cullum, Katie Melua, Hayley Westenra, Dido and
are selling to people who might only buy three or four
records a year because they have seen someone on the Parkinson
show." Mr Talbot said this could affect music sales
in the future.
Life for Rent was the biggest-selling album of last
would mean fewer profits going back to record companies
and publishers, and less money to invest in new acts,
is something the music industry really needs to keep an
eye on," he said. "The traditional role of smaller,
independent stores over the last 30 years has been to
develop the next wave of talent."
the past five years online retailers such as Amazon have
also emerged as a major force.
particular, Amazon says its UK site has recorded its most
successful Christmas yet, they told BBC News Online.
the BPI is currently investigating Amazon - and fellow
internet retailers CD-Wow and Play.com - because of accusations
they are selling CDs bought from outside the European
Union, which contravenes UK law.
HMV, Mr Castaldo said the British public would still patronise
high street stores, despite the additional choice offered
by new outlets.
British public has this relationship that is almost like
an emotional bond with the artists who make the music.
I think this stems from the 1960s pop explosion when everyone
seemed to get into music," he said.
he and Mr Phillips are confident 2004 will be another
good year for album sales.
a lot of cause to be quietly confident," Mr Castaldo