Krystof are biggest winners at Czech music awards - and what does future hold for music sales in this country?

Krystof, photo: CTK

In this week's edition of the Arts: the band Krystof are the biggest winners at this year's Andel music awards; how have legal music downloads taken off and how does the future look for music sales in general in the Czech Republic?

Krystof, photo: CTK
The annual Andel (Angel) awards ceremony is one of the biggest events on the Czech musical calendar. This year the event, organised by the Czech Academy of Popular Music, was held in the north Moravian city of Ostrava. And it was a local band who stole last Saturday's show: Krystof won Group of the Year award, Song of the Year for Rubicon, and Pop and Dance Album of the Year for their CD of the same title. If that wasn't enough, their charismatic singer Richard Krajco was the glitzy show's main presenter.

Among the other winners, Anna K was named Female Singer of the Year, while the men's award went to Matej Ruppert of the group Monkey Business. Discovery of the Year was Gipsy.cz.

Karel Svoboda was posthumously inducted into the Czech Academy of Popular Music's Hall of Fame. Svoboda, a hugely successful composer, committed suicide earlier this year.

Getting away from the Andel music awards, but staying with the Czech music industry, it's not long since legal music downloading began in this country. I discussed that issue - and the future of music sales in the Czech Republic in general - with Petra Zikovska, the head of the Czech branch of umbrella body the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

Petra Zikovska
"Just before Christmas 2006 we started with the first legal web page where it's possible to download [www.i-legalne.cz]. It's the first legal possibility to download in the Czech Republic...I think it's too early to say how the sales are doing, but I think it's a good start..."

If you look at the charts for downloads and the charts for CD sales, how do those charts compare?

"Usually whoever is big in physical sales is also big in downloads. But we just started to make a downloads chart, so I think it's too early to make some conclusions."

I think I saw a download chart and a CD sales chart, and the CD sales chart was all Czech artists and the download chart was a mix of Czech and foreign artists.

"I think it is necessary to mention at this point that Czech listeners are very conservative, and they are very much focused on local artists. So probably the downloads just copy the normal sales, but probably there are also some first trials of downloads. Maybe people are downloading international music, maybe rare music."

This may be a stupid question, but can Czechs buy music on the internet from other countries?

"No, they can't, I have tried it. It's really a pity that there is no bigger site like iTunes represented in the Czech Republic. I have tried to buy on the UK iTunes site and actually you need to have a UK Visa or Mastercard, issued in the UK."

What about CD sales? How are they holding up in the Czech Republic?

"Unfortunately they are not doing very well. If you compare 2006 and 2005 sales it's another 7 percent [lower than the previous year]. And the year before compared to the previous one was 12 percent [lower]. So it's going down steadily."

Is it the case that the sales aren't dropping so much in the case of Czech artists?

"I think it's quite proportional. Honestly I haven't looked at it from this side - probably I should - but as far as I know it's quite proportional. The decrease is in international and domestic as well.

"There is one thing I'd like to mention. Before Christmas or in the autumn the major companies like Sony-BMG and Universal etc. started with kind of local versions of the big international repertoire.

"This doesn't necessarily mean that Robbie Williams is singing in Czech. It just means that the booklet is slightly different, and the price is much more reasonable for local customers."

Is that a deliberate move to fight the fall in sales?

"Absolutely. Before, the Czech major [label] representatives were forced to keep prices on the same level as in western European countries. I think they were afraid the Austrians and Germans would come to buy CDs in the Czech Republic.

"So they're fighting it with Czech versions, with Czech flags...so I think, yeah, absolutely, that's a step to fight the decrease in music sales."

I have two friends who have independent music shops in Prague. Both are pessimistic about the future. Do you think that in, I don't know, 10 or 15 years, we will still have record shops in the Czech Republic?

"It's not only a problem in the Czech Republic, I think it's an problem everywhere. I think it will switch to another medium, or perhaps no medium. It's already happening - young people are not that interested in buying CDs, they more download.

"So I think they will be here in 15 years but maybe just for collectors or people who are really keen on music. And probably the majority of sales will be digital."

Have you seen evidence of record shops closing here already?

"Yeah, unfortunately, especially in the border area with the markets, in Cheb and other big towns near the border, there are no regular shops."

You're talking now about areas where there are Vietnamese stalls, with fake goods?

"Yes, with counterfeited products. It's funny because the Vietnamese people are oriented to German customers. So you can buy there German slagrs, and Modern Talking, but everything there is counterfeited, is illegal - a hundred percent."

Even David Hasselhoff?

"Even David Hasselhoff. I'm sorry to say that (laughs)."