Hard News by Russell Brown


Music's emerging digital market

For years now, the country's biggest retailer of recorded music has been not an actual record store, but the Big Red Shed. But a recent slump in music sales could see The Warehouse back away from CDs. The national chain Sounds simply went out of business in 2008.

So what's filling the gap? Paid digital downloads – sorta.

In this week's Media7 we're looking at the changing shape of music retail – who's selling, where, and how it all sounds.

I'll be joined by:

Stephen O'Hoy, general manager of Amplfier.co.nz and its associated aggregator, DRM, which supplies catalogue to the country's other digital digital retailers, including iTunes and Vodafone.

Phoenix Foundation guy Samuel Flynn Scott, whose band has pushed pretty firmly into the new world by launching the new album Buffalo on Bandcamp, an artist-driven platform that offers downloads in a range of formats, including FLAC.

And Peter Baker, the owner of indie distributor Rhythmethod, which has handled platinum albums for Fat Freddy's Drop and Shapeshifter, and is the cornerstone of a cluster of independent companies whose influence in the local market is growing as the major labels retrench.

We'll be explaining how the digital market works and doing a sound test on various digital files with Radio New Zealand's Andre Upston.

We'll also look at the recent IFPI report Recording Industry In Numbers 2010, which found that the value of music sales fell 7% globally last year, but rose in 13 territories, including Australia, where paid digital downloads were up 43% in the past year. (I'm still after a copy of the New Zealand page in the report.)

Australia was one of six markets where the value of sales rose because growth in digital sales was strong enough to offset a decline in physical formats. The others were Britain, India, South Korea, Thailand and Mexico.

The IFPI highlighted tougher new copyright laws in South Korea and Sweden as the reason for the legitimate market's strong performance in those countries, but as Billboard pointed out, the claim didn't really stack up with respect to Sweden.

Global digital download revenue increased 9.2% to $US4.31 billion. Digital now accounts for 25.3% of all music sales – and 43% of all U.S. music sales in 2009.

If you'd like to join us for the recording tomorrow, we'll need you at TVNZ between 5pm and 5.30, and have you away by 6.30. Click reply and let me know and I'll give you the details.

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