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Music sales up in 2012: Industry comeback or fleeting one-hit wonder?

A screen shot of Carly Rae Jepsen in the music video of her hit song
A screen shot of Carly Rae Jepsen in the music video of her hit song "Call Me Maybe," the top selling single of 2012. The music industry has not seen profits since 1999, but now due to digital media, it's finally seeing a profit increase.

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It may not be a dramatic surge, but a 0.3 percent increase in sales is certainly more encouraging for the music industry than the depressing decline of the previous 12 years.

Overall global music sales rose from $16.2 billion in 2011 to $16.5 billion in 2012, according the annual Digital Music Report issued by the International Federation for the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) on February 26. The fractional sales increase is a result of wider availability of digital music services around the world, as indicated in the report. Seventy percent of global digital revenues reportedly came from online retail sales through iTunes, Amazon, Google and Microsoft. IFPI Chief Executive Frances Moore said the music industry is “well on the road to recovery.” The top selling single worldwide was Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” and the top album was Adele’s “21.”

Despite the sales boost, it may be a little too soon to party like it’s 1999, the last year sales peaked. Sales in the United States still continued to decline and 16.5 billion in global sales is relatively low compared to the turn of the millennium when sales were nearly double that amount. In the age of pirated internet music, how much music do you pay for? Which retailers do you purchase your music from? What digital music services do you use? Is this small increase in sales representative of a new profitable era for the music business?

Chad Fitzgerald, Partner at Kinsella Weitzman IserKump & Aldisert, LLP; has represented such musical artists as Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, David Byrne, Jackson Browne, Crosby Stills & Nash, and the Estate of Michael Jackson

Roberto Baldwin, Wired Staff Writer for Gadget Lab

David Lowery, musician and founder of rock bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven; Lowery has also taught as a lecturer in the University of Georgia's music business program