Worldwide music sales hit $38.1 mil

Only 2% growth on average

LONDON — Music sales worldwide were a mixed bag in 1997, growing only 2% on average in terms of value and units, and with widely disparate results among the world’s top 10 markets.

All told, the world music market was worth $38.1 billion in 1997, according to figures released Thursday by the Intl. Federation of the Phonographic Industry, the global music biz’s representative org.

Total unit sales were 4.2 billion, which breaks down as 2.2 billion CDs, up 3%, 1.4 billion cassettes — surprisingly, the previously in-decline cassette format was up 1% from 1996 — 500 million singles and 20 million vinyl LPs.

CD sales expanded quickest in developing markets, up 30% in Eastern Europe, 19% in Latin America and 13% in Asia, excluding Japan.

The value of the U.S. music market in 1997 was down 3% from 1996 to $11.9 billion. Unit sales in the U.S. were down 7%.

The poor performance of record clubs and mail-order houses, down 19% in the U.S. last year, was cited as a key factor.

In Japan, the world’s second biggest music market, value was up 3% to $6.26 billion, with unit sales up 2%. Germany, the No. 3 music market, saw value up 1% to $2.84 billion and units up 2%.

The U.K. had a disappointing year following several years of growth, down 2% to $2.73 billion, with unit sales down 3%. France had 8% growth in value to $2.2 billion but was up only 2% in units. Brazil posted 4% growth to $1.12 billion, with units up 8%.

Unlike its neighbor to the south, Canada had a buoyant year, up 9% to $977.5 million, with unit sales up 5%. Australia, however, nose-dived 7% in value to $739.1 million. Aussie unit sales were off 12%.

The No. 9 market, the Netherlands, posted 5% growth to $600.1 million and enjoyed a 12% jump in units. On the back of an expanding retail sector, Spain returned to the top 10 — displacing Italy — with value up 19% to $599.9 million and units up 14%. Italy rose 7% to $593.3 million and posted a 12% rise in units sold.