Music industry hits the right note

Elizabeth Fournier

AS BARONESS Thatcher was settling into life as Britain’s first female Prime Minister in 1979, electronics giant Philips was heralding its own ground-breaking leap into the future.

In March that same year, the Dutch firm had demonstrated to the press something they called a Compact Disc Audio Player – an optical audio disc that could hold more data than most computer hard drives at the time.

Fast forward 34 years and CD sales have been on a steady downward spiral since the turn of the century – mirroring the fortunes of an music industry that’s been scrabbling to survive in the world of free streaming and pirated downloads.

But now, after 13 long years, the long-awaited digital revolution seems to have arrived. For the first time since Britney Spears burst into the charts with her debut single “...Baby One More Time” in 1999, global music revenues are on the up – albeit by a measly 0.2 per cent on 2011 – and driven by an eight per cent rise in digital income.

As with so many growth stories, there are twin catalysts at the heart of the uptick – innovative technology and booming emerging markets.

Digital streaming services such as Spotify have finally become sophisticated enough to lure users away from free alternatives and pique investor interest, while overall growth in India and Mexico – where digital sales make up 60 per cent and 35 per cent of total revenues respectively – offers huge potential for the trend to continue.

A puritan backlash among traditionalists may have sent vinyl sales soaring (though only to $171m), but there’s no denying where the industry is headed as a whole.

The music never died, it just took a while to hit fast-forward and find its place in the new millennium.