Recorded music revenues in the U.S. grew 27% in the first half of 2021 over 2020, according to the RIAA’s mid-year report. Paid subscriptions continued to be the strongest contributor to growth, comprising nearly two-thirds of total revenue, and more than 80 million paid subscriptions for the first time. Revenue rose from $5.6 to $7.1 billion at retail value. At wholesale value revenues rose 25% from $3.7 billion in the first half of 2020 to $4.6 billion in the same period of 2021.
Of course, year-over-year figures are skewed by the pandemic, which has had a devastating effect on the industry in the form of store closures, tour postponements and cancelations and other disruptions.
Streaming accounted for 84% of all revenues, up 26% year over year to $5.9 billion due largely to new licensing deals with companies like Facebook and digital fitness apps like Peloton. Paid streaming subscription revenue totaled $4.6 billion — also up 26% — and accounted for 78% of overall revenues. Paid subscriptions for on-demand music services grew 13% to a record 82.1 million in the U.S., up from 72.6 million over the same period in 2020.
Limited tier subscription revenue climbed to $452 million, accounting for 10% of streaming dollars, while ad-supported revenues — which were largely flat last year —grew 54% to $741 million. Digital and customized radio, including SoundExchange distributions, are up 3% to $585 million.
Vinyl sales skyrocketed 94% to $467 million, although that number was also dramatically skewed by store closures during the pandemic and severely impacted last year’s Record Store Day, which is traditionally the biggest sales day of the year. Revenues from CDs increased 44% to $205 million, but still remain 19% lower than they were in in the same period in 2019. CDs only accounted for 30% of physical revenues, while vinyl accounted for more than 2/3 of physical format revenues. Digital download sales revenue continued to drop, down 6% to $319 million, as did digital track sales revenue (down 12%) and digital album sales revenue (down 4%).
Looking at the overall pie chart, streaming comprised 84% of revenues, physical sales 10%, digital download sales 5% and synch 2%.
RIAA Chairman/CEO Mitch Glazier said in a Medium post, “Just as music led the way on resources and relief when the COVID crisis emerged — holding livestream fundraisers, creating the MusicCOVIDRelief.com aid portal, and fighting in Congress for artists, musicians, songwriters, and venues — we will continue to lead through these latest twists and turns.
“Whether it’s working towards renewed support for creators, following up on venue relief to ensure it reaches those who need it, or public education and advocacy to power safe reopening, our community will be there — sharing stories and moments to inspire, uplift, and connect.”