×

Streaming Overtakes Downloads, CDs as Top Music Revenue Driver

The U.S. music industry made more money with streaming than with CDs or digital downloads in 2015, according to new data from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). This is the first time streaming has surpassed the two other categories, the trade organization revealed Tuesday.

The RIAA attributed much of this growth the launch of Apple Music and Tidal. “The music industry is now a digital business, deriving more than 70% of its revenues from a wide array of digital platforms and formats,” said RIAA chairman and CEO Cary Sherman in a blog post.

Streaming accounted for 34.3% of all U.S. music industry revenue in 2015, while digital downloads made up for 34%. Physical disc sales still contributed 28.8% of a total retail revenue of $7 billion for the full-year 2015.

It’s worth pointing out that the RIAA keeps a variety of different services and revenue sources under the streaming category. It’s not just subscription revenue from Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music that’s included, but also revenue generated from ad-supported streams generated on YouTube, Pandora and Spotify’s free tier. Even SiriusXM’s music royalties are counted as streaming revenue.

In this big hodgepodge, paid subscription services brought in around $1.2 billion, while ad-supported on-demand streaming accounted for about $385 million. Sherman criticized the data, pointing out that vinyl sales revenue surpassed ad-supported on-demand streaming revenue in 2015.

Music industry executives have long pushed for a move away from ad-supported on-demand services and toward paid models. Service providers like Spotify have argued, on the other hand, that both models go hand-in hand, with free streams a marketing tool for paid services. The model certainly seems to be working for Spotify: The music service revealed yesterday that it now has 30 million paying subscribers.

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Exclusive Preview: The Rolling Stones' 50th

    Exclusive Preview: The Rolling Stones' 50th Anniversary Edition of ‘Let It Bleed’

    A debate over which Rolling Stones album is the best can have felonious results, but this near-lifelong fan will make the case for 1969’s “Let It Bleed” — the second in the group’s grand-slam of consecutive classics that began in 1968 with “Beggars Banquet” and concluded four years later with “Exile on Main Street.” Unlike [...]

  • Halsey, Ashley Nicolette Frangipane. Singer Halsey

    Emmys: Halsey to Sing In Memoriam Tribute at Sunday's Ceremony

    Pop star Halsey has been tapped to perform during the Emmy Awards on Sunday, while comedians Adam Devine and Thomas Lennon will also contribute to the telecast. With no Emmy host this year, producers Don Mischer Prods. and Done+Dusted are relying more on presenters and other contributors to keep the show moving, Halsey, whose hits [...]

  • Bebe Rexha

    Bebe Rexha Unveils New Single from 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil'

    Elton John did it. Christina Aguilera did it. Beyoncé did it. And now Bebe Rexha did it, becoming the latest pop singer to join a Disney soundtrack. Rexha dropped the track “You Can’t Stop The Girl,” which will be featured in the upcoming Disney sequel “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.” The song, which she co-wrote, follows [...]

  • Leonard Cohen Dead

    Leonard Cohen Gets One Last Album In: Posthumously Completed Set Due This Fall

    When Leonard Cohen died shortly after releasing “You Want It Darker.” there was no indication that that was not his final album. But now his son, Adam Cohen, has put together a collection that’s being described as the late singer/songwriter’s real swan song, based on “musical sketches” from his final days that were fleshed out [...]

  • This photo provided by the California

    Josh Turner Tour Bus Crash Kills Sound Engineer, Leaves 7 from Crew Hospitalized

    A bus carrying crew members for country singer Josh Turner’s tour went off an embankment after leaving a show in Paso Robles, California, killing sound engineer David Turner and leaving seven others hospitalized. Turner and his band were on a separate bus following the crew bus and reportedly stopped to assist after the deadly accident [...]

  • WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 18:

    Billie Eilish Tells Crowd She Plans to Tour Behind... Her 2017 EP

    Okay, so it may just have been a way to get some crowd members who were dead-set on calling out requests off her back. But she seemed to mean it. At a show for SiriusXM and Pandora at L.A.’s Troubadour club Wednesday, Billie Eilish made an interesting vow to the crowd: She plans to tour [...]

  • UTA lobby in Nashville

    UTA's Nashville Office Sets 2020 for Move to Historic Downtown Library Building

    UTA has announced a forthcoming move to much bigger digs in Nashville, with plans to leave its current home at the Cummins Station complex in the first quarter of 2020 to make good on a signed lease on a major library building in the heart of downtown that’s being renovated for office use. Once construction [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content