Google attacked by music industry over inaction on piracy as sales fall by $600m

By James Titcomb

File photo / AP
File photo / AP

The global music industry body has attacked Google for failing to address internet piracy after revealing a $600m (NZD$697m) decline in worldwide music sales last year.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said the search engine had "not been effective" and "could do so much more" to prevent illegal music downloading, which the industry says costs it billions in revenues every year.

It came as the IFPI's annual review of the industry revealed a 3.9pc fall in global recorded music sales in 2013, despite a massive increase in consumers spending money on music streaming.

Revenues from streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube surpassed the $1bn mark, growing 51pc, but failed to make up for dwindling CD sales.

Apart from an improvement in 2012, worldwide music sales have been in decline for years as easily available pirated content on the internet has made many unwilling to pay.

Frances Moore, the IFPI's chief executive, said the body and other industry groups had sent more than 100m notices to Google requesting it remove links to illegal music in its search results, but that "to be quite honest we didn't see much effect of those notices".

She said that with Google having launched its own online music services, "we hope that Google will realise that it's in its own interest to do more, but we're yet to see that. Google could do so much more". The search engine did not respond to requests for comment.

Recent initiatives such as encouraging internet providers to block websites have had some success, but one in four internet users still pirates music, according to the IFPI.

The 3.9pc decline in global sales is a disappointment for the industry, which looked to have turned a corner a year ago when it said 2012 saw the first growth since 1999. The drop-off was blamed largely on Japan, which is the world's second-biggest market in terms of sales but has been far slower than others to switch from CDs to online music. Ignoring Japan, sales fell by just 0.1pc, and improved in Europe for the first time in more than a decade.


British pop group One Direction were the best-selling global artists of 2013. Photo / AP

Sales of physical formats, mainly CDs, fell by 11.7pc last year, although they have remained remarkably resilient amid the rise of digital music and still account for more than half of recorded music revenues. Revenues from music downloads such as those from Apple's iTunes store fell for the first time, as consumers in developed markets switched to streaming services.

Apple has reportedly been pushing labels to release more songs solely via iTunes to protect itself from the rise of streaming. The pop singer Beyonce's most recent album, which was available exclusively on iTunes, became the service's fastest-selling album last year.

Streaming services, which allow their users to choose from a catalogue of millions of songs and play them on demand, are funded either by a monthly subscription fee or with advertisements. The IFPI said 28m people are now paying for the services, against just 8m three years earlier.

Performance rights - broadcast rights in pubs, clubs and on the radio - grew by 19pc, while sales from licensing music to film and television fell slightly.

Overall, recorded music sales fell from $15.7bn in 2012 to $15bn last year. In 2008 sales were $18.1bn, but the rate of decline has slowed recently.

British pop group One Direction were the best-selling global artists of the year, the IFPI said, but were the only British act among the top 10. The group's album, Midnight Memories, was the world's most popular, selling 4m copies.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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