RIAA celebrates record profits in 1999

The market for recorded music climbed to $14.6 billion in 1999, up 6.3% from the previous year’s $13.7 billion, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

The record business has grown exponentially in the past decade. In 1990, total dollar value topped $7.5 billion. This dollar value data is calculated from the manufacturers’ suggested list price.

Meanwhile, the amount of audio and video product shipped to domestic retail and nonretail channels increased 3.2% from 1.12 billion units in 1998 to 1.16 billion in 1999. In 1990, total unit shipments stood at 865.7 million.

While shipments of full-length CDs jumped 10.8% from 847 million in 1998 to 939 million in 1999, full-length CD dollar value increased 12.3% from $11.4 billion in 1998 to $12.8 billion in 1999.

Although shipments of CD singles remained flat at 56 million in 1999, the growth in this area came from CD maxi-singles. In this category, dollar value soared from $35.7 million in 1998 to $65.3 million in 1999.

The market for cassettes continued to decline as more cars are sold with CD players aboard and sales of portable CD players continue to rise. Cassette units shipped dropped 22% from 158.4 million in 1998 to 123.6 million in 1999; cassette dollar value fell 25.2% from $1.4 billion in 1998 to $1.1 billion in 1999.

Unit shipments of all formats to special markets — which account for 25% of the total domestic market and include all mail-order operations, record clubs and nonmusic retail outlets — rose 6.1% from 274.3 million in 1998 to 291 million in 1999. Dollar value of shipments to direct and special markets dipped 1.4% from $1.6 billion in 1998 to $1.5 billion in 1999, however.

Unit shipments of musicvideos, including DVDs, dropped 28% from 27.2 million in 1998 to 19.8 million in 1999. Musicvideo dollar value decreased 27.6% from $520.2 million in 1998 to $376.7 million in 1999.

When broken out separately, however, DVD musicvideos showed enormous growth. DVD musicvid unit shipments skyrocketed 405% from 485,000 in 1998 to 2.5 million in 1999, while their dollar value jumped 442% from $12.2 million in 1998 to $66.3 million in 1999.

Total album product (full-length LP, CD and cassette) shipments were up 5.6% in 1999 — a figure nearly identical to SoundScan’s 5.9% reported increase in sales of album product. The RIAA’s year-end numbers represent data from companies that distribute about 90% of the pre-recorded music in the U.S. To calculate unit shipments and dollar values for the remainder of the market, the RIAA’s accounting firm uses retail sales data from SoundScan to estimate shipments by non-reporting companies.

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