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...was exchange rates. Global unrest, continued “zero interest rates,” and lackluster economic growth combined to create an unusually volatile currency market during the 12 months of 2014.

Meanwhile, music products sales in the world’s 42 largest markets declined 1.7% to $16.6 billion in 2014. The decline was less the result of slumping demand than volatile shifts in currency valuations. To facilitate comparability in this report, country market revenues are translated from local currencies into U.S. dollars at 2014 year-end valuations. During the 12 months of 2014, 22 of the 26 currencies involved declined in value against the dollar: The Russian ruble fell 48%, and the Argentinian peso slipped 22%. The dollar value of both of these nations’ music markets declined a comparable amount. Strip out these currency fluctuations, and the market was essentially flat.

Market conditions on the ground in 42 countries on five continents that are home to 4.8 billion people varied dramatically. However, there were a few noteworthy global trends that impacted overall industry results. Sluggish economic growth in Europe and North America has obscured major gains in much of the developed world. Over the past two decades, the number of people living in what the U.N. describes as “extreme poverty” has steadily trended downward from 50% of the world’s population to less than 10%. For the music products industry, this rising tide has created sizable markets in countries throughout Asia and parts of South America, where before there were none. Offsetting this prosperity-driven growth has been what can best be described as “technology-driven deflation.” The same advances that have forced prices down on computers, smart phones, and all other consumer electronics have also been at work in the music industry, drastically reducing selling prices on audio gear and electronic musical instruments—products that represent about 30% of total industry volume. The push and pull of these two macro trends have kept global industry revenues within a narrow bandwidth.

Of all the markets tracked in this report, India posted the biggest gain, with retail sales advancing 11.2% in 2014, albeit from a relatively low baseline. Rising prosperity levels, driven by economic liberalization, can take the credit. Of the world’s larger markets in 2014, China turned in the best performance, advancing 8.5% to an estimated $1.38 billion at retail value.

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