Music subscriptions hit record high, top 50 million

Paid subscriptions to music streaming services hit a new high in 2018, topping 50 million for the first time and contributing strongly to an overall revenue increase of 12 percent over the previous year, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Consumers’ use of streaming through paid subscriptions rose 33 percent over 2017. Streaming services collected nearly $4.7 billion in revenue, up from $3.5 billion in 2014, the RIAA said.

“Tremendous output from the artist community fueled a historic milestone of 50 million subscriptions to music services, which in turn helped drive U.S. music’s third consecutive year of double-digit growth,” RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier said in a statement.

“Rejuvenation in the industry means more opportunities to find and break new artists for fans to enjoy,” Glazier said.

Major labels signed 658 new artists in 2017, the most recent figure available, up from 589 three years earlier, a study from New York University’s Steinhardt Music Business Program found.

The RIAA’s latest report shows that 75 percent of music industry revenue now comes from various forms of streaming. Physical sales of vinyl records continued to increase, up 8 percent to $419 million, the highest level since 1988.

Sales of other physical media, however, continued to fall. Revenue from CD sales were down almost 34 percent, to $698 million; music video sales fell more than 28 percent, to $28 million; and sales of “other physical media,” including cassette tapes, was off nearly 22 percent, to $9.6 million.

The window through which music briefly came to consumers by way of digital downloading also continues to narrow. Revenue from downloaded albums and individual tracks dropped for the sixth year in a row, to $1.04 billion in 2018, and accounted for just 11 percent of 2018 music revenue, considerable less than the market share of 42 percent five years earlier.

Glazier’s statement said that although total music revenue totaled just under $10 billion — a significant rebound from a low of $6.7 billion in both 2014 and 2015 — the industry was back only to a level close to what it was in 2007, when the total was $10.7 billion.

“Stream-ripping, and a lack of accountability for many Big Tech companies that drive down the value of music, remain serious threats as the industry strives for additional growth,” Glazier said.

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