CDs’ ship comes in as retail numbers rise

First increase in four years

The number of CDs shipped domestically from record companies to retail distribution channels rose 5.3% last year, the first increase in four years, according to the Recording Industry Assn. of America.

But compared to year-end numbers five years ago, the number of overall units shipped to retail in 2004 was down 21%.

Last year saw 766.9 million units worth $11.45 billion shipped, topping 2003’s 745.9 million CD shipments. In 2000, 942 million units were shipped, with a value of $13.21 billion.

In 2004, 814.1 million units were shipped, compared to 798.4 million a year earlier.

Including other formats, the number of overall units shipped to retail increased by 4.4%. Counting all formats and all distribution channels (music clubs and mail order), overall shipments increased by 2%.

The DVD musicvideo format continued to grow significantly, up 66% in shipments but with a 51.8% increase in value (list price). The DVD music format represents approximately 5% of the overall recorded music market in list-price dollars.

The RIAA also reported 140 million licensed digital tracks were sold in the U.S. last year.

“There was some encouraging progress last year,” said RIAA chairman-CEO Mitch Bainwol. “The music community’s enthusiasm for distributing its content in new ways has been a real spur to innovation for our industry.”

As usual, the RIAA blamed online and street-level piracy for keeping sales numbers down. “Until the playing field is balanced,” Bainwol said, “the legitimate online music business cannot truly flourish, and investment in new art will not reach its potential.”

The CD single plummeted 62% and the high-end audio CD formats suffered dips as well. DVD Audio dropped 20.6% in 2004, while SACD lost 39.6% last year.

The 2004 statistics are supplied by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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