Thank you for the music: Total music sales hit double-digit growth

Millions of subscribers worldwide are contributing to a global boom in music sales on the back of music-streaming services.
Millions of subscribers worldwide are contributing to a global boom in music sales on the back of music-streaming services.ST PHOTO: DAVE LIM

Boosted by streaming services, total sales hitting the right notes, recording double-digit growth

The love affair between Singaporeans and the convenience of having music on-demand through streaming services has boosted music sales here, with total sales reaching their first double-digit percentage growth since such sales saw a positive uptick in 2014.

Total music sales here grew by 16.5 per cent last year to reach US$15.5 million (S$21.5 million), according to data from Swiss-based International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

This is in contrast to the 3.2 per cent growth in 2015, which resulted in a total revenue of US$13.3 million in music sales that year. Sales here reportedly hit US$31.2 million in 2007.

IFPI's regional director for Asia, Mr Ang Kwee Tiang, said last year's figures are a promising sign for the local music industry. "The Singapore music market definitely has the potential to return to its glory days. The challenge is to persuade the Singapore consumer to appreciate and pay for the value of music."

And streaming sales contributed significantly to this increase, with the Singapore market in line with global trends, said Mr Ang.

"Singaporeans are primarily getting their music from streaming services now," he said. These are subscription-based apps and services such as Spotify, Apple Music, KKBOX and Deezer.

Digital music sales, which include digital downloads and revenue from streaming services, formed the bulk of last year's overall music sales at US$11 million in total, or 71 per cent. Sales of physical music, such as CDs and vinyl records, and revenue from performance and synchronisation rights - which involves licensing music - make up the other 29 per cent.

 

Streaming services accounted for over half of the total revenue here last year, raking in US$8.8 million primarily through subscription-based models.

Spotify's managing director for Asia, Ms Sunita Kaur, said the service has more than 50 million paying subscribers around the world, and that Singaporeans spend on average 2hr 32min per day on the app.

"Singaporeans use the platform for music discovery," she said, and users here have streamed an equivalent of 19,000 years of music in the past 12 months.

Revenue from digital downloads, however, dipped slightly last year, falling to US$1.6 million after holding steady at US$2.1 million in 2014 and 2015. But physical music made its worst showing in five years, sliding to only US$900,000 last year.

Users cite the convenience of having an entire library at their fingertips and the ability to listen to whatever they like on a whim as the main reasons for signing up with music streaming services.

Ms Marianne Chang, 28, has a Spotify Premium subscription for over a year, for which she pays $9.90 every month.

MUSIC AT YOUR FINGERTIPS

I have almost every type of music I need on Spotify, no matter the genre - from jazz to K-indie to classical even. I'm introduced to new music which I really enjoy, and the discovery feature helps link me to other bands I might not have heard of.

MS MARIANNE CHANG, 28, a marketing executive who has a Spotify Premium subscription for over a year, for which she pays $9.90 every month.

"I have almost every type of music I need on Spotify, no matter the genre - from jazz to K-indie to classical even," said the marketing executive. "I'm introduced to new music which I really enjoy, and the discovery feature helps link me to other bands I might not have heard of."

She is one of the millions of subscribers worldwide who are contributing to a global boom in music sales on the back of such streaming services.

Globally, digital music sales grew by 17.7 per cent to US$7.8 billion last year, driven by a 60.4 per cent spike in streaming revenue - the largest growth in eight years, according to the IFPI.

Last year also marked the first time global digital revenues made up 50 per cent of total recorded music industry revenues.

However, physical music, such as CDs, continued its slow, inexorable march towards the way of the dodo, as sales continued to slide.

In Singapore, CD sales fell to US$600,000, down 61.8 per cent from US$1.57 million in 2015.

But a few hardy holdouts continue to cater to audiophiles and music lovers who prefer the sound quality that CDs offer.

Mr Denny Pue, who runs Simply Music at The Adelphi, said he continues to bring in and sell audiophile-grade CDs to a group of diehard music lovers who maintain that CDs provide better sound quality than digital media.

But the allure of a vintage lifestyle and a throwback to the past continue to revive an even older form of physical music - vinyl records.

Vinyl sales here, while still small overall, increased fivefold to US$150,000 last year, as shops here start catering to a mix of old and new customers by bringing in vinyls of modern pop music.

"It's not just about the music, but the lifestyle too," said Mr Pue.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2017, with the headline 'Thank you for the music'. Print Edition | Subscribe