Paid subscriptions to music streaming services hit new high of 50 million in 2018, RIAA report says


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% over the previous year, according to figures released Thursday by the Recording Industry Assn. of America (RIAA).

Consumers’ use of streaming through paid subscriptions jumped 33% over 2017 levels, generating nearly $4.7 billion in revenue, up from $3.5 billion a year earlier, the RIAA reported.

For the record:

7:40 p.m. Feb. 28, 2019An earlier version of this post misspelled RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier’s surname as Glazer.

“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 added.

In a related study out of New York University’s Steinhardt Music Business Program, that growth of new artist signings was quantified: Major labels signed 658 new artists in 2017, the most recent figure available, up from 589 three years earlier.

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

Other physical media, however, continued on a downward arc, with revenue from CD sales dropping almost 34% (to $698 million), music videos down more than 28% ($28 million) and “other physical media,” including cassette tapes, was off nearly 22% ($9.6 million).

At the same time, 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% of 2018 music revenue, a considerable tumble from the market share of 42% five years earlier.

Glazier’s statement noted 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 — that still brings the industry 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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