Lévy Bullish About Music Sales

Jean-Bernard Lévy predicts the record business will return to growth as soon as it finds new ways to make money from legal digital downloads.

The Vivendi chief exec told the U.K.’s Financial Times that Universal Music Group, which his company owns, will soon see increased sales from acts including Amy Winehouse, Metallica and McFly.

He told the paper he’s pleased by a host of new means of raising money from the sale of music, such as mobile phone maker Nokia’s plan to charge a premium for handsets that include its Comes With Music service. The fixed charge allows consumers to download unlimited music tracks to their handsets for a year.

Lévy said he’s also impressed by other innovations with the potential to increase revenues, including future deals with companies such as Apple and recent arrangements with MySpace.

The decline of CD sales in the face of an upsurge of mostly illegal digital downloading has led to a decline in global recorded music sales from US$36.9 billion in 2000 to US$29.9 billion last year.

The FT also quoted a recent speech by City Of New York University media expert Clay Shirky, who described the music industry as “the skull on a pikestaff as a warning to others about how not to deal with the Internet.”

Lévy said he believes that Universal, which just reported first-half revenues up 5 percent to euro 2 billion ($3.1 billion) on sales of euro 11.3 billion ($17.6 billion), will be “the next surprise for our investors.”

“I think that in the music business, there is a strong likelihood that we are getting close to the lowest part of the cycle and we are extremely active in developing new business models, new sources of revenues,” he explained.

“We are working with all the big names in the field of Internet, in the field of telecom equipment companies, big media companies and this is a big opportunity.

“I really believe we are at the turning point for the music industry and I didn’t say that two years ago,” he added.

However, Lévy has always remained fairly bullish about the world’s largest music company’s prospects.