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Is Napster Hurting Recording Sales?

Comes news last week that "sales of compact discs singles fell by 39% [BBC] last year" according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Recording industry execs, anxious to prove they have been damaged by the digital music revolution in general and Napster in specific, seized on the figures to prove that online file-trading has "harmed their business."

But has it? The CD singles category is misleading as a measure of industry health. In the 50s and 60s singles were strong sellers, but they have declined in importance in recent decades. Singles have a very distinct place in the market [Independent], and that place is changing.

Overall, sales of compact discs - a $12 billion business - held their own [Newsbytes] in a year many considered weak musically. Revenues from full-length cd's, by far the most popular mode of recorded music, grew three percent last year. Shipments of full-length compact discs increased by .4 percent from 1999 to 2000.

Indeed, a study suggested last year [ZDNet] that rather than hurting cd sales, music downloading over the net "prompted listeners to go out and buy recordings." The survey said "that 66 percent of all consumers said that listening to a song online has at least once prompted them to later buy a CD or cassette featuring the song."

Indeed, in the first six months of 2000 [ZDNet], shipments of full-length compact discs in the United States reached an all-time high, up 6 percent from the previous year period to 420 million units. "CDs comprise 86 percent of the total music purchasing market and the dollar value grew 9.9 percent to nearly $5.7 billion.

Not only that, the sales figures don't include a rapidly-expanding do-it-yourself industry [Nando Times] and a growing indie-label business in which musicians are recording, releasing and selling their own music over the internet.






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