Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

U.S. Music Streams Topped a Trillion in 2019

Anne Steele, Wall Street Journal:

U.S. music streams on services like Spotify Technology AB, Apple Music and YouTube rose 30% last year to top one trillion for the first time, according to Nielsen Music’s annual report, fueled by big releases from artists like Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and Post Malone.

Streaming services have upended how people listen to and pay for music, and now account for 82% of music consumption in the U.S., according to Nielsen. Sales of physical albums, meanwhile, dropped off 19% in 2019 and now make up just 9% of overall music consumption.

Since 2016, streaming has been far bigger business than digital sales ever were. Meanwhile, vinyl records are projected to surpass compact discs in 2019 sales. This makes complete sense to me: if you’re passively listening to music, you’ll just stream it because you don’t have to pay more, but if you want to make your music listening an — and I am already regretting this word choice — experience, you’ll pick up a physical item with presence.

Amy X. Wang, Rolling Stone:

Of the litany of things you can buy for $10 — a sandwich, a box of pens, and a print magazine among them — unlimited access to a catalog of 50 million songs is one of the most bang-for-your-buck options out there. But that’s how much music-streaming subscriptions have cost their entire existence.

The coming year may be when that finally changes, for a number of reasons. First, Spotify, the leader of the music-streaming market, recently entered its second decade of existence towing 250 million users, 110 million of whom are paying subscribers; when tech companies hit such major growth milestones, they tend to hike up prices to begin recouping previous years’ lost revenue, which is why Uber rides, Seamless deliveries, ClassPass sessions, and the products of other startups-turned-behemoths are more expensive now than they were at the start.

I can’t imagine most people a decade ago were spending $120 per year on music; given the RIAA’s sales data, it appears that streaming now generates more revenue than all music revenues combined from 2010–2017. But now we are, and we can probably expect to spend much more than that pretty soon.