US Recorded Music Revenues Grow Again As Paid Streaming Subscriptions Jump

April 5, 2018

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Industries | Media & Entertainment

Retail revenues from recorded music in the US saw an impressive 16.5% rise last year, far outdoing 2016’s rise of 11.4%, which at the time had been the biggest gain in almost 20 years (since 1998). That’s according to annual revenue statistics [pdf] from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which also noted that US music revenues grew in consecutive years for the first time since 1999.

As with 2016, last year’s increase was powered by streaming growth, as revenues from streaming grew from 51% share of recorded music industry revenues to 65% share ($5.7 billion).

Nielsen had previously noted a similar trend, with the music industry growing in 2017 as on-demand streaming grew to a majority of recorded music consumption for the first time.

The number of paid music subscriptions in the US averaged 35.3 million last year, per the report, up by more than 50% from 2016’s 22.7 million. In fact, the number of paid music subscriptions more than tripled between 2015 and 2017.

Growth in streaming subscriptions last year was attributed in part to the first full year of Amazon Unlimited. The proliferation of Smart Speakers (in particular, Amazon Echo devices) may be having an impact on the recorded music market: research indicates that while only 8% of streaming audio listeners say they listen to Amazon Music most often, that figure almost doubles to 15% among Smart Speaker owners.

Meanwhile, revenues from physical products exceeded those from digital downloads for the first time since 2011, per the RIAA. Total digital download revenues (measured as downloads of singles and albums, along with ringtones & ringbacks and other digital downloads) declined by 24.7% to a total of $1.33 billion.

Total physical revenues (including CDs, LPs/EPs and others) declined by 3.7%, to $1.5 billion. Vinyl continues to be a bright spot, with unit sales up 5.3% and dollar value up by 9.3% year-over-year.

All told, the recorded music industry is still shifting to digital, though at a slowing rate. Last year, digital accounted for 82% of the industry’s $8.7 billion in revenues, up from 79% share of revenues in 2016.

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