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Oz Indies Thrive While Major Record Companies Blame The Usual Suspects, Again
By Alex Malik, Esq.
(more articles from this author)
2005-04-12
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In March 2005 the ARIA announced that in 2004 wholesale recorded music sales decreased by almost 4% in volume to 63.1 million units, and decreased by 6% in value by 6% to $607 million. ARIA attributed this poor performance to competing entertainment products, “the increasingly competitive retail environment,” and the increasing take up of broadband resulting in more internet based piracy.

In their analysis of their 2004 sales performance, ARIA failed to attribute the “reversals in the industry’s fortunes” to a significant reduction in the number of titles released by their member record companies in 2004.

According to a study by University of Technology academic and music industry commentator Alex Malik, the “Major” record companies (BMG/Sony, EMI, Universal, and Warner) released 1,574 fewer albums, singles and DVDs in 2004 compared to 2003. According to Mr Malik, the majors released 2906 albums, singles and DVDs in 2004, compared to 4480 albums, singles and DVDs in 2003. This represents a reduction in the number of titles released by the majors of over 35% in just a 12-month period.

The biggest decrease in release numbers by the majors was in singles. Singles releases by the majors decreased by 42% from 769 singles in 2003 to 446 singles in 2004. Album releases by the majors decreased by over 39% from 3198 albums in 2003 to 1938 albums in 2004. There was a small increase in DVD titles released by the majors – from 513 in 2003 to 522 in 2004, but this increase was not enough to compensate for the reduced number of album and singles releases by the majors.

This study was based on information supplied in the “ARIA Report,” which is produced and distributed on a weekly basis by the ARIA Chart Department. This study suggests that in 2004 Australian music consumers had less choice than ever before in available titles, and this is a likely partial explanation for disgruntled former music consumers turning to competing entertainment products, including games and DVDs, as well as authorised and unauthorised downloads.

This study also suggests that large recording companies operating in Australia are investing less money in developing new artists, and are releasing and marketing fewer new titles, including titles by Australian artists. With the recent Sony/BMG merger, and reports of many established recording artists being “dropped” by the majors, this deliberate and targeted contraction by major labels is likely to continue in 2005.

However, 2004 was not all gloom for the Australian recording industry. The study by Mr Malik demonstrated the existence of a thriving and expanding Australian independent music sector. In 2004 independent record companies released 1219 albums, which was almost double the number of independent albums released in 2003. Independent record companies also released more singles and DVDs in 2004, and while this growth did not make up for the diminished number of new releases by the “Majors,” it still gives hope that a thriving independent sector will continue to support and nurture Australian recording artists.

For further information, please e-mail: Alex.Malik@student.uts.edu.au

Summary: Australian New Release Information
By Major record companies (Sony/BMG/EMI/Universal/Warner) and
Non Major record companies (Festival Mushroom, Shock, and independents)

2003 2004 Trend % Trend
Albums Majors 3198 1938 -1260 -39.4
Non Majors 616 1219 603 97.9
Total 3814 3157 -657 -17.2

Singles Majors 769 446 -323 -42.0
Non Majors 144 270 126 87.5
Total 913 716 -197 -21.6

DVDs Majors 513 522 9 1.8
Non Majors 31 62 31 100.0
Total 544 584 40 7.4

All Product
Majors 4480 2906 -1574 -35.1
Non Majors 791 1551 760 96.1
Total 5271 4457 -814 -15.4

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