Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Spinning sales according to the wind

Doing the rounds of the news outlets yesterday, BPI experts attempted to do the impossible, and try to blame the fall in sales of singles last year on piracy, while acknowledging that album sales, erm, actually rose.

This in itself is curious - the BPI spokesperson kept saying "ah, but people will download a single, but not an album." The sense contained in that statement could be fed to a gnat and the gnat would still starve - how exactly would that work? "I have my highspeed dial up and Limewire is running, but what would be the point of downloading an entire album when I could go and purchase it from town, not thirty miles away; more importantly, the only real revenue-threatening piracy, that of blokes selling copies of Top 40 records from the back of white vans at car boot sales and most council offices near you deals exclusively in albums, so if the problem of loss of sales to shady operators was as great as we're told, you'd expect the singles market to hold up, and the albums to be in collapse.

But the sales figures themselves are more curious still, as the BPI admits that, while they fell, singles sales fell less sharply in the last quarter of 2002 than in "the seven previous quarters." In other words, with the number of files being shared and swapped over the various systems still increasing, the singles market is steadying. Indeed, although the number of singles sold last year did drop, they're only now at the same level as in 1992, when they were much, much cheaper in real terms.

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