By Marc Hogan.
It’s official: The music industry has regained a bit of its health, and that’s largely thanks to streaming. The RIAA announced today that retail revenue from recorded music in the United States grew to $7.7 billion last year, the highest sales level since 2009, The New York Times reports. That’s an increase of 11.4 percent, the biggest percentage gain since 1998. The RIAA said the growth was mainly driven by the rise of paid subscription streaming services such as Apple Music, Tidal, and the paid version of Spotify. Revenues from paid subscription services in America more than doubled, to $2.5 billion. Overall, paid and free streaming generated $3.9 billion in revenues, the first time it has made up more than half of the industry total. However, industry revenues were still only about half of their 1999 peak.
Cary Sherman, the president of the RIAA, which represents major labels, said in an online commentary, “As excited as we are about our growth in 2016, our recovery is fragile and fraught with risk.”
Beyond streaming, the industry’s biggest-selling formats continued to show a decline. Only 99.4 million full-length CDs were sold last year, and their revenues fell 21 percent to $1.2 billion, according to the RIAA. As The New York Times reports, the last time fewer than 100 million CDs were sold was in 1986. Downloads slid 22 percent in 2016 to $1.8 billion.
Sales of vinyl albums, meanwhile, were up 4 percent to $430 million and made up their biggest share of total physical sales since 1985, at 26 percent.
As previously reported by Nielsen, streaming became the leading mode of music consumption in America last year. Overall on-demand audio streams leaped 76 percent to surpass 251 billion in 2016, according to Nielsen. Separately, BuzzAngle Music reported there were more streams on an average day in 2016 than song downloads for the entire year. According to BuzzAngle, Drake was the most-streamed artist of 2016 by a wide margin.
This story originally appeared on Pitchfork.
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