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Streaming now 80% of the $11.1 billion US recorded music market

By | Published on Wednesday 26 February 2020


Streaming accounted for nearly 80% of record industry revenues in the US last year, with the ongoing streaming boom helping the world’s biggest recorded music market grow its overall revenues by about 13%. Which means, according to new stats from the Recording Industry Association Of America, the estimated retail value of recorded music in the US last year was $11.1 billion.

In terms of the record industry’s different revenue streams, streaming accounted for just over 79% of income, with downloads generating 8%, physical product 10% and sync 2%. Though the streaming category does cover a wide range of services, including paid-for and free on-demand streaming platforms, and also royalties collected for the labels from personalised, online and satellite radio services via collecting society SoundExchange.

Some of the online radio royalties would probably be categorised differently in other markets, where the record industry also earns when music is played on AM/FM radio and in public spaces like pubs, clubs, bars and cafes. That money, alongside online radio income, would then usually sit under a broadcast and public performance revenue stream. But US copyright law does not provide a general performing right for the sound recording copyright, hence why that revenue stream is missing in America.

Not that taking the online radio royalties out of the streaming figure would make a huge difference, given paid-for premium streaming services – rather than free or radio-style services – generate by far the most money for the music industry. Total 2019 subscription revenues in the US were up 25% year-on-year to $6.8 billion, meaning those services alone account for 61% of total revenues.

According to the RIAA’s report, that growth in subscription revenue was the result of paid-for platforms across the board signing up more than a million new subscribers each month, meaning more than 60 million Americans now pay to access a streaming music service.

Given the continued growth of the American recorded music business, we can probably accept a little light bragging from RIAA boss Mitch Glazier. Just a little.

“It is worth taking this moment to reflect on what we have accomplished”, he wrote in a blog post yesterday. “By investing in a vibrant music culture of diverse voices, music companies have driven a fourth consecutive year of double digit growth and continued to build a digital-driven industry with a focus on the future”.

He bragged on: “We are working in partnership with the entire music community to provide expanded opportunities for both artists and fans, and to keep the heart of American culture beating for another generation”.

Although, of course, keeping things happy happy requires some help from lawmakers and the tech sector because, you know, it always does. Elsewhere in his blog, Glazier wrote: “We still have not realised the full value of music on all digital services. Music is by far the biggest draw to tech platforms, gaining views and listens that generate enormous revenues for distributors, but in many cases this happens without an appropriate share for creators”.

That’s the customary safe harbour dig, in case you wondered. And now for the piracy gripe. “Our technology partners”, Glazier went on, “also need to commit themselves to protecting and promoting artists’ work by doing more to stop stream-ripping and other forms of piracy. That requires the platforms to work more productively with the music community as partners to stop theft and respect the true value of music”.

But still, double digit growth, 60 million subscribers, boom, boom, boom, woo!