Streaming music services were for the first time ever responsible for more than 50% of all U.S. music industry revenue in 2016, according to new numbers released by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) Thursday.
Paid and ad-supported streaming together generated 51% of music revenue last year, to be precise, bringing in a total of $3.9 billion. In 2015, streaming music was responsible for 34% of the music industry’s annual revenue.
Much of that increase can be attributed to a strong growth of paid subscriptions to services like Spotify and Apple Music. Revenue from paid subscription plans more than doubled in 2016, bringing in $2.5 billion, with an average of 22.6 million U.S. consumers subscribing to streaming services last year. The year before, subscription services had an average of 10.8 million paying subscribers.
The huge growth in paid streaming led to a big decline in paid downloads, with iTunes and other transactional digital music services bringing in 22% less money in 2016, to the tune of $1.8 billion. CD sales also continued to fall, with all physical media bringing in $1.7 billion, which is 16% below 2015 levels.
The RIAA once again used its report to lambast ad-supported streaming services for not contributing enough. RIAA chairman Cary Sherman called for a change in copyright laws to do away with safe-harbor protections for YouTube and other platforms carrying user-generated content Thursday, complaining in a blog post that the current legal framework “feels like a rigged system.”
However, these complaints come at a time where digital music is reversing the fortunes of an industry that has seen more than a decade of revenue declines. On a retail basis, music industry revenue grew 11.4% in 2016.