Record biz spinning

The record industry rebounded slightly from last year’s dismal first-half performance, according to the annual midyear figures issued yesterday by the Recording Industry Assn. of America. Net shipments in 1992 after returns and overall dollar value of goods both increased during the first two quarters compared to a similar period in 1991.

However, the increases represent good news/bad news: While the numbers were up from last year, they still lag far behind 1990 figures for January-June. And shipment numbers do not represent actual sales, which labels largely report as flat for much of this year.

The RIAA’s Market Research Committee, assisted by KPMG Peat Marwick, compiles industry statistics from the recording industry’s net shipment figures, which provide an overall view of industry shipment activity, including wholesale, retail and ancillary markets, such as record clubs, television promotions and mail order.

RIAA president Jay Berman wasn’t turning cartwheels over the midyear results, but called it “a good first half. I think, generally speaking, between January and June business was OK. But it’s growth over 1991, which was not a good year.”

Berman attributed the results to compact disc business holding steady while cassette sales halted last year’s decline.

Of historical note, the RIAA midyear report is the first official confirmation that compact discs are the consumer configuration of choice, with CD shipments and dollar value overtaking cassette sale figures for the first time.

As a corollary to its numbers, the RIAA quoted figures from the Electronic Industries Assn., which projects CD players have now penetrated 37% of American homes.

While no similar figures were available for portable and auto units, portable unit sales allegedly have been booming, according to the EIA, which reports sales of more than 3.6 million units through July 1992, up 79.4% from last year.

The record industry’s midyear dollar value of shipments was $ 3.8 billion, up from $ 3.49 billion in the same period last year and $ 3.48 billion in 1990.

Overall unit shipments hit 402.31 million units net after returns during January-June 1992, a 6.69% increase from 1991’s 377.08, when the recession and Persian Gulf War killed first-half business.

The 1992 figures, however, still trail 1990’s 424.08 net units shipped during the same period.

CD shipments up

Unit shipments of CDs were up to 181.63 in 1992 midyear, representing a dollar value of $ 2.3 billion. Shipments were up 18.05%, while the dollar value was up 19.52%.

Although cassettes showed a minor 3.4% unit shipment decrease and 0.37% dollar value decrease, they were up from 1991 figures, when cassette shipments were down 23.33% for units shipped and 17.28% in dollar value.

Disc singles, vinyl albums and music videos also showed slight drops in shipments at midyear 1992 compared to last year, a not-unexpected development.

Heading in the opposite direction were cassette singles and CD singles, which showed marginal increases in unit shipments.

Berman said he was “cautiously optimistic” about results in the second half of 1992.

“The economy hasn’t improved, but it hasn’t gotten worse,” Berman said, noting that the industry does more than half its business in the third and fourth quarters.

Last year, the music industry reversed its disastrous first half to finish the year with business up 3.89% over 1990 figures.

Barring a weak holiday season, the record industry is on track to top $ 8 billion this year in overall gross dollar value of shipments.

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