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Streaming turned the music world on its head in the last decade

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that streaming is now the dominant form of revenue for those in the music industry, but the scale of change over the last decade is really something to behold.

In its end-of-decade summary the Recording Industry Association of America says 80% of the US music market is made up by streaming, compared with just 7% in 2010.

Whereas only 1.5 million people paid for music subscriptions in 2010, there’s now an estimated 61 million people forking out monthly fees to stream music.

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The uptick is partly due to the fact Spotify didn’t launch in the US until 2011 and Apple Music didn’t arrive on the scene until 2015. Indeed, following Apple Music’s launch, paid subscriptions more than doubled from 10.8m to 22.7m overall in the United States in 2016.

Solutions from Tidal, Amazon and others have joined the incumbents since, bringing the total of paying customers up to more than 60 million subscribers.

Despite the substantial resurgence of formats like vinyl and cassette, physical media has dropped from 52% of the market in 2010 to just 9% of the market at the end of 2019. Digital downloads have also fallen off a cliff, with 38% in 2010 dropping to 9% of the market currently.

However, vinyl sales have consistently grown throughout the last decade, from just over $50 million in 2009 to a little under $450 million in the United States in 2018.

Elsewhere, the RIAA is crediting Adele, Taylor Swift and Drake with eight of the top ten albums of the decade in terms of sales. We’re not sure how the industry body is surmising those figures, but it’s likely a combination of streaming and physical sales.

Of course, the dominance of streaming is hardly good news for anyone apart from the elite artists out there who garner billions of plays each year. The fall in physical media sales is decimating earnings for smaller acts, due to the pittance dished out per play by the major streaming platforms.

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