Even as live music massively struggled, the recorded music industry saw another booming year out of 2020, according to a year-end report from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) released on Friday.
In line with video-streaming services’ boom during the year of quarantine, the RIAA found that paid music-streaming subscriptions in the U.S. saw their biggest ever year-to-year leap in 2020, with 15 million new people buying a music streaming subscription last year from services like Apple Music and Spotify. That brings the total number of paying U.S. music subscribers to 75.5 million.
Total recorded music revenues jumped to $12.2 billion last year from $11.1 billion in 2019, according to the report, a 9.2% increase year over year. 2020’s increase however ends a four-year streak of double-digit growth for recorded music revenues. Streaming now makes up 83% of U.S. total recorded revenue, with paid subscriptions making up 64% of the total. Streaming revenue grew 13% last year (up to $10.1 billion), supported by paid subscriptions along with radio streamers like SiriusXM and ad-supported services YouTube and Spotify’s ad-tier. The RIAA also highlighted licensing revenue from online services like Facebook and Peloton.
Elsewhere, vinyl, which saw its 15th consecutive year of growth, overtook CD sales as the biggest physical revenue driver last year, now making up 54% of the $1.1 billion physical product market — but CDs still outsell vinyl by about 8.7 million units. Vinyl revenue was up 29% in 2020, but physical revenue overall dipped half a percent, and digital downloads continued to drop as well, down 18% to $674 million last year.
“The headline numbers tell a story of continued, strong growth for streaming reflecting music’s role in the broader online ecosystem as a key engine fueling tech platforms, online services, and apps,” RIAA chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier said in a statement accompanying the report.
Along with the strong numbers, Glazier highlighted the difficulties the industry at large faces as live music approaches a a year with hardly any revenue. Concert tours, not song streams, are the biggest source of revenue for most music artists in the streaming era.
“The necessary cancellation of most live performances has deeply impacted artists and so many other music professionals — from touring musicians to road crews to supporting businesses like catering, trucking, and promotion — and left scores of landmark venues on the brink of collapse…” Glazier said. “And while today’s release provides a bright spot for creators and describes a vital and growing streaming ecosystem for everyone with a stake in it, there’s a long way to go before we reach the far side of the Covid-19 calamity. As a music industry — as a united community — the work of recovery, rebuilding, and relief must and will continue.”