Spain has long been seen as a lost cause by many music industry executives, thanks to widespread piracy and a long-term decline in music sales that has outstripped most other markets.

Those executives may be rubbing their eyes today, then: Spanish recorded-music revenues bounced back in 2014. In fact, they were up a startling 21.2%, even if the total (€149.9m) remains small in the global picture.

Promusicae noted that 2013 was “the worst year ever for the industry” in Spain after 12 years of constant decline, describing 2014’s rise as “a ray of hope” in its annual sales report (PDF). What drove the increase? Yes, streaming, which was up 36.3% to €47.3m of revenues in Spain last year. But physical revenues also rose 20.2% to €87m, fuelled by a 22% increase in CD unit sales, even as download sales dipped 2%.

Spain has yet to reach the tipping point where digital overtakes physical, then – the ratio was 42-58 in physical’s favour in 2014. Promusicae president Antonio Guisasola warned that the market “is still obviously very fragile after a collapse of 80% in the last years” while hailing the “shy improvement” of digital revenues against a backdrop of economic woes and continued piracy.

What remains to be seen this year is the extent to which 2014’s growth was due to a cluster of significant releases from artists like Enrique Iglesias, David Bisbal and Malú, which local execs pointed to when we covered Spain in the Music Ally Report’s country profile last October.

However, we also noted then that Spain is punching “well above its weight” on streaming, with collective plays of the top 50 tracks on Spotify in the last week of June reaching 16.4m – not so far behind Germany (21.5m) and the UK (22.7m). Spain has the biggest ratio of free over premium streaming users, but there are positive signs that even the ad-supported model is making inroads into piracy there.

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