US music sales continue to decline but the rate of decline is slowing, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

The body revealed last week that sales of recorded music and videos slipped 6 per cent to $11.9 billion in 2003. The business saw a 7.1 per cent decline in CD sales.

However, the rate of decline seems to have slowed – CD sales fell 8.9 per cent in 2002. The industry believes the decline in the decline began emerging in autumn as the RIAA began waging legal action against file downloaders. The figures don't include digitally-distributed tracks, the RIAA said.

"The data suggests some stabilizing trends in the music industry. The year 2003 was important for the recording industry, with record companies offering consumers the widest choice and variety of ways to access music ever available, including through satellite radio and webcasting streams, exclusive release deals, different pricing strategies, new formats and value-added CD/DVD combinations in retail outlets," said the RIAA.

"While the music industry continues to face serious challenges, we are pleased that trends appear to be going in a more positive direction," said Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and CEO of the RIAA.

"Record companies have taken a proactive approach to dealing with piracy, implementing educational efforts and enforcement programs that have dramatically increased awareness of the illegality of unauthorized file sharing, while at the same time ensuring that their music is available on a wide array of legal online services.

"However, while legitimate online services continue to proliferate and evolve to meet consumer demands, this is truly a marketplace in its infancy. Continued enforcement efforts are needed in order to create a level playing field on which legitimate online music services can compete and thrive."

The 2003 statistics are supplied by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

In related news, the British Phonographic Industry has made the group's director general Andrew Yeates' speech to the Royal Society of Arts in January available for download. In his speech, Yeates shared the UK music industry's plans to deal with copyright and warned that legal action may begin in the UK against file sharing.