P0LICE in Ukraine destroy pirated CDs outside Kiev.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) announced in London on April 15 that a slower world economy, the proliferation of free music on the Internet and the popularity of CD writers had contributed to a year-on-year drop of around $1.8 billion in world-wide sales of recorded music to $33.7 billion in 2001.
The biggest declines were recorded in the two largest markets - North America and Japan, where sales fell 4.7 per cent and 9.4 per cent respectively. European sales overall saw a modest decrease of 0.8 per cent, while sales in UK and France increased, said IFPI.
According to IFPI Slovakia, domestic music sales fell by two per cent, based on reports by IFPI-SR member companies.
Fighting large commercial piracy rings has long been a focus of the group's activities, but the recent popularity of CD writers among consumers has raised new problems for the industry, said IFPI.
In its piracy report for 2000, IFPI put Slovakia among those countries where less than 10 per cent of music sales were of pirated origin, a group that contains most European Union countries and the US.
However, Slovakia has been a concern to the industry due to the activities of organised crime groups from Ukraine and Russia, two of the most notorious countries for pirating, according to the industry.
In its June 2001 piracy report, IFPI writes: "Ukraine has an estimated CD production capacity of more than 70 million units, compared to a legitimate market of around one million units. IFPI's forensic tests helped show that pirated CDs manufactured in Ukraine have been found in more than 20 countries."
This year, however, the group began including home copying in its calculations. According to IFPI-SR Director Slavomír Ošovský: "In 2001 we included CD-R [home] piracy in the total figure for the first time. The recent estimated share of pirated products on the Slovak recorded music market is 40 per cent."
For many young Slovaks, pirated music has become a fact of life. While the latest releases from top acts like Lenny Kravitz or U2 can cost over Sk700 ($15, more than a day's wage at the national average salary) in shops, a pirated version of the same record can be bought by cost-conscious consumers for Sk100 or less from acquaintances with CD-copying equipment.
Ošovský said he had little sympathy for Slovaks who pleaded the relative expense of CDs in defence of home piracy. "I've never understood why people complain about the price of a CD by U2 or the Beatles, but never complain about the price of a Mercedes or a Honda.
"Also, young people claim they are not able to buy, for example, a CD by the [Slovak] group Seven Days to Winter for Sk350, but they still have enough money to attend a gig by [Slovak groups] Das EFX, Krakalla and Kontrafakt for Sk450. This particular gig was pretty well attended, I can tell you, I was there," said Ošovský
Jozef Šebo, manager of popular Slovak singer Jana Kirschner, estimates that 10-15,000 copies of her most recent record, V cudzom meste, have been burned by fans.
However, Šebo said he also believed that consumers were willing to pay for music of good quality. "[Top male vocalist] Richard Müller sold 40,000 copies, which proves that he made a product people wanted and were willing to pay for. I don't see the situation so pessimistically."
"I think when someone makes a good product, the music business is definitely easier here than in America or the UK," added Šebo.