Streaming made up 75% of US music industry revenue in 2018

Smartphone displaying Apple Music

Last updated on December 10th, 2021

Streaming services have become firmly cemented as the main source of revenue for the US music industry. The RIAA reports that 2018 saw a record 75% of the US music industry’s revenue come from streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, etc. Total revenue last year was $9.8 billion.

The infographic below outlines 2018 US music industry revenue by category.

Infographic by Statista (CC BY ND)

Digital and streaming formats

As noted above, industry revenue from streaming is at an all-time high; at 75% of total revenue, it’s up from two-thirds of total revenue last year.

Meanwhile, digital download revenue (from music stories like iTunes) has dropped to 11% of total earnings. It’s clear that digital’s the norm these days; people would rather subscribe to music (at $10 a month) than buy a permanent copy (at $10 an album).

The infographic below shows how streaming music revenue has grown year-by-year since 2005.

Infographic by Statista (CC BY ND)

Physical formats

Physical formats make up 12% of revenue. Similar to previous years, vinyl sales continue to rise, now making up $419 million in revenue. That’s up 8% from 2017, and the highest they’ve been since 1988.

Meanwhile, sales of CDs have dropped to $698 million, down 34% from 2017. It’s the first time since 1986 that CD revenue has dropped below $1 billion.

I haven’t seen vinyl records this prominent since childhood. Still, I still don’t see why people want vinyl records back so badly. Debates about analog music “warmth” aside, I’ve long since considered records as nostalgia items, not as a primary source of music.

Total revenue

Total revenue last year came to $9.8 billion. That’s up from a low of $7 billion in 2014, when streaming revenue only made up a little more than a fourth of total earnings.

However, total revenue is still down significantly from the all-time high of $21.5 billion in 1999, when CD sales were at their peak. Of course, it helped that CDs were overpriced at the time—one reason MP3s, piracy (via Napster, etc.), and the iPod/iTunes vastly changed things in the early-to-mid 2000s.

The chart below shows the changes in music industry revenue by format.

Music revenue by format
Infographic by Statista (CC BY ND)

Photo by freestocks dot org (Flickr / CC0 public domain / cropped from original)

Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

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