We won’t know the full figures on how 2018 went for the global recorded-music industry until next month, when the IFPI publishes its annual report. But based on the largest market in the world, the US, it’s going to be another strong set of figures. The RIAA revealed yesterday that US retail revenues for recorded-music grew by 12% to $9.8bn in 2018 – the third straight year of double-digit growth.
Streaming is now 75% of that market: $7.4bn of revenues in the US last year, up 30% on 2017. That included $5.4bn of subscription revenues – up 32% – as the number of paid music subscriptions grew by 42% to 50.2 million people. Which, as you may have spotted, means the growth in the number of subscribers is higher than actual subscription revenues (a difference increased if you strip out the $747m of ‘limited-tier’ subscription revenues, since those listeners aren’t included in the ’50.2 million subscribers’ figure.
Yes, there’s a ‘value gap’ issue being raised. The RIAA said that revenues for on-demand ad-supported services (so Spotify’s free tier as well as YouTube etc) grew by 15% to $760m. “These types of services streamed more than 400 billion songs to listeners in the Unites States, more than one-third of an estimated total of 1.2 trillion streams, yet contributed only 8% to total revenues for the year,” as the RIAA put it.
Other trends: CD sales plunged by 34% to $698m while vinyl sales grew by 8% to $419m. We really are facing the prospect of vinyl overtaking CD again in the US, possibly even this year. Download sales were down by 26% to just over $1bn. RIAA chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier chose to focus on the streaming subscriptions growth, though. “Fifty million subscriptions illustrate fans’ unrivaled love for music and the way it shapes our identities and culture — and showcases an industry that has embraced the future and found a healthy path forward in the digital economy.”
The RIAA doesn’t break out individual streaming services, but consultancy firm MusicWatch put some numbers out yesterday for ‘share of music listening’ in the US, in the final quarter of 2018. It reckons YouTube was still top with 28% of aggregate listening hours, up from 27% a year before. However, Spotify is on the charge, growing from 20% of listening to 24% over the same period. Pandora (20%), Apple Music (6%) and Amazon Music (3%) are the other services listed.
That’s for all listening – free and paid. MusicWatch says that when just subscription services are considered, Spotify had a 39% share of US listening in Q4 2018, ahead of Apple Music (17%), Amazon Music (16%) and Pandora’s subscription tiers (10%). The company added that according to its data, the average weekly listening hours of a Spotify Premium user grew from 4.9 hours in Q4 2017 to 6.8 hours in Q4 2018. And – topically – it claims that “Spotify Premium subscribers are spending 6 hours per week listening to podcasts…”