There’s always going to be a market for selling songs. CDs, vinyl, digital tracks–a not-insignificant number of music consumers will want to possess their music rather than just have access to it through streaming music services. I’m one of those people. I need physical custody of music to do my job. I can’t create Ongoing History of New Music programs without the songs themselves; streaming isn’t an option when producing audio programming like this. And besides, I’m a collector. I just like to know my music is sitting on a shelf someplace.
But I’m hardly a typical music consumer. Everyone else is slowly moving away from purchasing music to just streaming it. The Atlantic published this chart summarizing the situation in the US in 2014.
The Atlantic says:
The recorded music industry is being eaten, not by one simple digital revolution, but rather by revolutions inside of revolutions, mouths inside of mouths, Alien-style. Digitization and illegal downloads kicked it all off. MP3 players and iTunes liquified the album. That was enough to send recorded music’s profits cascading. But today the disruption is being disrupted: Digital track sales are falling at nearly the same rate as CD sales, as music fans are turning to streaming—on iTunes, SoundCloud, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and music blogs. Now that music is superabundant, the business (beyond selling subscriptions to music sites) thrives only where scarcity can be manufactured—in concert halls, where there are only so many seats, or in advertising, where one song or band can anchor a branding campaign.
I’ll say it again: there will always be physical stuff for people to buy. But for the rest of the world, streaming will do fine.