The record industry poured a little more fuel on the online
piracy wars Friday, blaming a steep decrease in CD singles sales in 2000
on unauthorized Internet downloads.
Shipments of singles fell by nearly 40 percent last year, after
relatively flat growth in the two previous years, the Recording Industry
Association of America said. Overall, CD sales were up slightly for the
year, compared with 1999 sales, however.
The industry said the drop in singles sales was "principally brought on
by new options provided by the Internet."
"There's no question these numbers are disappointing, but the future
looks bright for the industry and consumers alike," RIAA Chief
Executive Officer Hilary Rosen said in a statement. "I believe a road has
been paved to enable a legitimate online music market to take hold and
flourish. The appetite for music remains high and our member companies
are poised to meet new demand."
The drop in singles sales, which account for less than one percent of
the industry's revenues, doesn't amount to a scathing indictment of the
effect of music-swapping services like Napster on the music industry,
Overall shipments of music to retailers lagged in the second half of the
year, but the industry association attributed that in part to the
slowing economy and consolidation among the large music outlets.
The recording industry has long argued that services like Napster, which
allow unrestricted access to a huge library of free music, would
ultimately cut into their record sales. To date, statistics have not yet
backed this claim up, however. Sales of CDs have consistently grown,
although not spectacularly, since the popularity of file-swapping
services began exploding online.
One study did show that record sales near college campuses, where a high
number of Napster users are concentrated, have fallen. But
interpretations of those figures differed, as some experts said the
decline could also be due in part to college students buying their music
Rosen has also said that actual sales figures don't matter, however. The
industry's arguments against
Napster and similar services rest on the copyright owners' and artists'
rights to control their own work, not on the economic effects of piracy,
she has said.
In the course of the year, the industry posted revenues of $14.2
billion, down nearly 2 percent from 1999. Contributing to the decline
were also drops in the numbers of vinyl records and singles, cassettes
albums, music videos, and an almost total disappearance of the cassette
Revenues from CDs rose by just over 3 percent, despite the end of
minimum pricing plans that had triggered antitrust investigations from
federal and state regulators.