EMI’s Nicoli touts sales, downloads

Music pub arm benefits from the rise in digital formats

NEW YORK — EMI Group chairman Eric Nicoli cited “clear signs that the market has improved” in an upbeat investor presentation Tuesday.

With CD sales beginning to stabilize and digital music sales on the rise, the biz could eventually return to annual growth of 6%-9%, he predicted.

He played down merger speculation, which has dogged EMI for years, more intensely since the recent merger of Sony and BMG.

“For the moment, we’re focused on doing what we have to do as a stand-alone company,” he said.

EMI is the only publicly traded independent in the industry.

Nicoli projected that digital music could represent a quarter of the entire music biz in five years. While EMI’s digital music sales for the first half of 2004 represented only 2% of total sales, it was more than five times that of the previous six-month period.

Nicoli noted that EMI’s music publishing arm stands to benefit from the rise in digital formats, such as MP3s and ringtones.

Nicoli plugged several EMI recording artists, such as Norah Jones, who received five Grammy noms Tuesday; Coldplay, which will release its next album in March; and up-and-comer Joss Stone.

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