'Explosive' digital sales growth boosts EMI

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The Independent Online

EMI signalled today that it was winning the war against piracy after sales of downloaded music surged six-fold over the summer.

The group reported "explosive growth" in sales of digital music and growing confidence that the industry was starting to recover after years in decline.

Demand for songs downloaded via computer has surged since computer giant Apple launched its iTunes music store in the UK, France and Germany in June.

Microsoft muscled into the market last month with a rival online store - MSN Music - which enables fans to download songs direct to their mobile phones as well as their PCs.

Chart sensation Robbie Williams became the first artist to put his entire album, plus videos, on a memory card that can be inserted directly into a mobile handset.

Signs that the music industry was on the brink of a revival were visible in new data that showed it shrinking by 1.3 per cent over the six months - a major improvement on the 9.6 per cent decline of a year ago.

Details emerged as EMI unveiled profits of £36.9 million in the six months to September 30, up 9 per cent on a year ago at constant exchange rates but down 7.3 per cent after accounting for the recent strength of the pound.

This improvement in profitability was driven by a cull of artists, the merger of a clutch of its record labels and the outsourcing of manufacturing operations in the US and Europe.

EMI said the restructuring was on track to deliver savings of £50 million, with at least half of this sum coming in the current financial year.

Currency swings reduced sales by 6 per cent, although an 11.4 per cent drop in reported turnover of £851 million also reflected EMI's decision to delay the release of new albums until the second half.

The Greatest Hits of Robbie Williams has sold more than 3 million copies since October, while Kylie Minogue, Coldplay and The Chemical Brothers are among other artists with new albums.

Chairman Eric Nicoli said: "We have already seen a significant year-on-year pick-up in our sales since the end of September.

"This, along with the strong growth of music DVDs and the explosive growth in our digital market activity, leaves us well placed to maintain our market share for the full year."