Copying albums for free on 'CD burners' cuts worldwide music sales

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The Independent Online

Global sales of recorded music fell by 5 per cent in the first half of the year, a decline blamed on the growing practice of copying albums on to blank compact discs.

Global sales of recorded music fell by 5 per cent in the first half of the year, a decline blamed on the growing practice of copying albums on to blank compact discs.

The ability to produce a copy of a music CD on a computer in less than five minutes, using a high-speed "CD burner", has become increasingly popular with music fans keen to avoid actually paying for an album.

Such burners have legal uses: they are becoming standard on all PCs sold in the high street, to allow people to back up data from their computers on to "CD-Rs" or blank CDs in case their PC is hit by a virus or hardware fault. But they can also treat music just like data, and back that up too – causing the music industry huge headaches and costing it millions of pounds in lost revenues, according to the International Federation of Phonographic Industries, which represents record companies. Keith Jopling, market research manager for the federation, said: "The CD album has been the mainstay of growth in sales for the past 10 years, and we're concerned about the fall in sales this year. Something is clearly skimming sales, and that leads us to look at CD-Rs."

Worldwide, CD-R sales grew by 80 per cent last year. In Germany, for example, album sales were down 13 per cent, while CD-R sales jumped 130 per cent. "Across Germany, a total of 133 million CD-Rs were burnt in the year; that's two CD-Rs for every three albums sold," Mr Jopling said.

US sales fell by 5 per cent, and in Latin America – where piracy is widespread – sales fell by 20 per cent. Overall, the music business was worth $37bn (£26.4 bn) in 2000; first-half sales this year were about $14bn. Now, companies are pinning their hopes on a good second half, when traditionally 60 per cent or more of sales occur.

Record companies have begun experimenting with software embedded in the music that makes it impossible to copy the tracks from a CD using a computer.

Last month The Independent revealed that promotional copies of Michael Jackson's new single on Sony Records, "You Rock My World", had copy protection that prevented them playing in computers. Sony is still considering whether to use copy protection on the public single or album.

The UK and France did buck the sales trend, with sales up 10 and 8 per cent respectively. That will give a boost to Radio 2's new top 40 album chart, which was launched last night. The station is aiming to increase its hold on the "middle-market" audiences.

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