Music revenues up

Spotify, the world's top selling music streaming service, expects revenue to grow 20 to 30 per cent this year as currency swings slow the pace from 2017.

LOS ANGELES • The music business in the United States posted its fastest growth since Boyz II Men and Hootie & The Blowfish topped the charts 23 years ago.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said revenue grew 16.5 per cent last year, marking the first time since 1999 at the dawn of online music that the business has expanded for two years in a row.

Recorded music sales from all formats totalled US$8.7 billion (S$11.4 billion), returning to the level seen in 2008, even if it is still 40 per cent below the pre-Internet peak.

The growth was almost entirely from streaming, with subscriptions to paid platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and a new service of retail giant Amazon growing 56 per cent to 35.3 million users.

The biggest loser in the rise of on-demand streaming has been digital downloads on iTunes and elsewhere, which tumbled 25 per cent.

Physical sales also fell, but were propped up by a continued resurgence of vinyl, for which revenue jumped 10 per cent. Revenue from physical sales outpaced digital downloads' in the US for the first time since 2011.

Streaming has been transforming the global music business, though artists frequently say they see little of the newfound bounty.

But RIAA chairman Cary Sherman pointed to a study showing record labels worldwide had invested US$4.5 billion in artist development and marketing in 2015. He voiced hope that the US Congress will pass a bill that would guarantee that online radio stations pay royalties for songs recorded before 1972, which are exempt under current law.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2018, with the headline 'Music revenues up'. Print Edition | Subscribe