The record industry pleaded Wednesday with consumers to stop downloading and recording music for free because piracy was strangling the multi-billion-dollar industry. Profits have plummeted, especially in Europe. CD sales in Germany last year were 185 million whereas the number of blank CDs used to copy music was estimated at 182 million.
Record executives also believe there are now more unauthorised music files available on the Internet than at the height of Napster's success in the field.
"Music for free means less new music, fewer new artists, less choice, thousands less jobs," said Jay Berman, head of the industry's main trade body, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).
Electronic music composer Jean Michel Jarre, who has staged spectacular sound and light shows around the world, fervently agreed, telling reporters: "If music is to continue to support the livelihoods of artists, it cannot be taken without the permission of artists."
They were speaking at a news conference in Brussels to mark the IFPI Platinum Europe Awards that are staged every two years to give out record industry "Oscars" to artists who have sold over one million albums across the continent.
The industry may be celebrating the bestsellers but it is clearly alarmed.
John Kennedy, President and Chief Operating Officer of Universal Music International, warned: "If the prevailing music for free mentality is left unchecked, record companies will no longer be able to re-invest up to 15 percent of their revenues in discovering and nurturing the Platinum artists of the future."
IFPI sales figures for 2001 showed a 5 percent fall in the value of recorded music worldwide to $33.7 billion. Among the steepest falls were in Europe -- Denmark was down 19 percent and Austria 10 percent.
Kennedy, speaking to Reuters afterwards, said the figures speak for themselves.
"In 2000 in America, seven albums sold more than five million copies. Since then, none has sold more than five million copies," he said, putting the fall down to consumers who spurn the record stores and search elsewhere to get their music for free.
Kennedy said Irish supergroup U2 sold 10 million copies of their first Greatest Hits compilation album. The second volume is due out this year and he wondered: "Are these figures still attainable?"