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RIAA Issues Bullish Mid-Year Report: Revenue Up 10%, Streaming Now 75% of Total

In the first half of 2018 streaming services were averaging 1 million new paid subscribers per month.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) issued a bullish mid-year report today: Total revenue from recorded music rose 10% to $4.6 billion year over year (from $4.2 billion and $3.5 billion in 2017 and 2016, respectively), with streaming accounting for $3.4 billion — some 75% of that total, and up from $1 billion at mid-year 2015. (At wholesale value, revenues rose 10% to $ 3.1 billion.)

Paid subscriptions accounted for 75% of the streaming total, and in the first half of 2018 streaming services were averaging 1 million new paid subscribers per month.

In his enthusiastic opening letter, RIAA CEO Mitch Glazier singled out titles by Camila Cabello, Drake, Cardi B, Post Malone, Migos, Charlie Puth, Travis Scott and Jason Aldean as the leaders in Nielsen Music’s estimated 70,000 albums released in the first half of 2018, and also got in a dig at the existing U.S. licensing model.

“We also recognize that the growth achieved so far is in spite of our music licensing system, not because of it,” he wrote. “That’s not how it should work. Fortunately, a bipartisan bill, the Music Modernization Act, is edging closer to final Congressional enactment. The elements included in that bill close some of the most glaring loopholes in our licensing laws, but it is not a comprehensive reform that ensures all artists earn fair market rates on all platforms. We still have much work to do.”

With that in mind, paid subscription revenues were up 33% year over year to $2.55 billion, with $528 million coming from digital and customized radio services (such as Amazon Prime and Pandora Plus) and $369 million from ad-supported — i.e. free — on-demand audio and video revenue such as YouTube and Vevo.

As always, the report does not fail to point out that the revnue from the free tier is grossly disproportionate to its use: YouTube is by far the most popular streaming platform for music globally.

“Advertising supported on-demand revenues for music from services like YouTube, Vevo, and the ad-supported version of Spotify grew 21% year-over-year to $369 million,” the report reads. “While Nielsen has reported that these services streamed hundreds of billions of songs to fans in the U.S. in [the first half of] 2018, revenues from ad-supported on-demand platforms make up only 11% of total streaming revenues.”

Of the remaining 25% of the total revenue, digital downloads accounted for 12%, physical sales of CDs and vinyl for 10%, and synch for 3%.

While vinyl sales continued to rise with a 13% increase year-over-year, the report notes that a 41% drop in revenues from CD sales more than offset that gain.

Read the full report here.

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