US album sales rose 10.4 per cent in the first month of 2004 – partly thanks to iTunes marketing, analysts say.

However, Sanford Bernstein analyst Michael Nathanson warns that this does not mean the declines that have recently plagued the industry are over.

Nathanson told Reuters: "Lawsuits could be driving former pirates back to the physical product.

He suggests part of the reason for the upturn is that "instead of every label trying to break the next big pop or R&B act, the music industry is releasing a wider variety of acts and these acts are actually selling".

Music sales in January were still below the 47.4 million units sold during the same period in 1999, before the downturn began.