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US music sales decline slows in 2003
( 2004-01-03 13:44) (Agencies)

The overall music sales slipped less than 1 percent in the United States in 2003, slowing a three- year decline amid heightened anti-piracy measures, the Hollywood Reporter reported Friday.

The 0.68 percent decline in total units, which sold 687 million units, was driven by a slower decline in the sale of Compact Disc (CD) albums, which accounted for 96 percent of all music sales.

The sale of CD albums in 2003 dropped only 2.1 percent, compared with a much steeper 8.7 percent in 2002, the report cited statistics issued by retail tracker Nielsen SoundScan.

At the same time, the sales of digital tracks rose sharply in the year due to the launch of legal Internet download services such as Apple Computer Inc. iTunes music store and Roxio Inc's revived Napster.

Rapper 50 Cent had the top-selling album as his "Get Rich or Die Tryin" sold 6.5 million units. He was followed by jazz singer Norah Jones and rock band Linkin Park on the top-selling list.

Universal Music Group maintained its market-share lead in 2003 with 28 percent of album sales. While this was a slip of nearly 1 percent, its two closes competitors + BMG and Warner Music Group - -both made gains of 15.5 percent and 16.4 percent respectively.

For the last quater of the year, a 5.6 percent rise of CD sales led the overall music sales to increase by 10.5 percent over the same period in 2002, Nielsen SoundScan said.

The latest figures signaled that the troubled US music industry, plagued by online piracy, could be pulling out of its long-running slump after waging a massive legal battle against piracy in 2003.

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