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Two Music Industry Giants Post Sales Gains

April 21, 2006|Charles Duhigg | Times Staff Writer

Two of the nation's largest recording companies reported sales gains Thursday, suggesting the music industry's longtime malaise might be easing.

Revenue at Universal Music Group, the nation's largest music company, climbed to $1.36 billion in the first quarter, up 8.4% from a year earlier, parent company Vivendi Universal said.

The quarter's bestsellers included new releases from Andrea Bocelli, Jack Johnson and Prince as well as a debut release from Ne-Yo, which topped the U.S. album chart in March.

A Universal representative said 10% of its revenue was from digital sales, including downloads of songs to computers and mobile phones. Vivendi did not release earnings details.

Additionally, the nation's fourth-largest music company, EMI Group, posted its first sales increase in five years, driven by a doubling in digital downloads and by strong-selling albums from Coldplay, Gorillaz and the Rolling Stones.

London-based EMI said it expected to report that revenue increased almost 4% in the fiscal year that ended March 31. A Citigroup analyst estimated full-year sales of about $3.7 billion. EMI said it expected to report a 12% gain in the year's earnings before taxes, amortization and exceptional items. The company plans to release results for the year in May.

The recorded-music industry has been in decline since 2000, when worldwide sales totaled $39.7 billion. Since then, piracy and competition from video games, DVDs and other entertainment have taken a toll, driving global music sales down 3% last year to $33 billion, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

However, digital sales remain a ray of hope. Last year, worldwide sales of downloads tripled to $1.1 billion.

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