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Music streaming surges in US

News, 24 March 2016

NEW YORK: There has been a marked shift to streaming music services in the US with streaming now the largest revenue earner in the world's biggest music market, new industry data has shown.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America's study of the US music industry in 2015, streaming from sites such as Spotify and Apple Music have overtaken digital downloads in terms of revenue for the first time.

Streaming accounted for $2.41bn, or 34.3%, of overall music revenues in 2015, taking the format past the $2bn, or 34.0%, earned by digital downloads, which fell 10% over the year.

That meant streaming revenues grew by a healthy 29% in 2015, which also compared favourably with the industry's overall revenue growth of just 0.9% to $7bn.

Sales of physical formats also declined 10% to $2bn, or 28.8% of total industry revenue, but one significant winner was vinyl, which saw revenue growth of 32% to $416m – its highest level since 1988.

"Overall, the data for 2015 shows a music industry that continues to adopt digital distribution platforms for the majority of its revenues. While overall revenue levels were only up slightly, large shifts continued to occur under the surface as streaming continued to increase its market share," the report said.

Looking at the streaming market in more detail, the report went on to note that paid subscription services were the largest and fast-growing section.

Revenues from paid subscriptions grew 52% to $1.2bn in 2015, while at the same time the number of paid subscriptions increased 40% to an average of 10.8m for the full year.

Cary Sherman, chairman and chief executive of RIAA, also said that digital accounted for 70% of the overall market by value in 2015, but he went on to accuse some ad-supported providers, such as YouTube, of making money at the expense of artists.

"The consumption of music is skyrocketing, but revenues for creators have not kept pace," he said in comments reported by the Financial Times.

"This is why we, and so many of our music community brethren, feel that some technology giants have been enriching themselves at the expense of the people who actually create the music."

Data sourced from RIAA, Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff