Record labels now make more revenue from streaming than they do from the sales of any physical medium. This article from The Christian Science Monitor looks at how streaming has saved the music industry.
I stream. You stream. We all stream our music these days. Nielsen recently issued an ear-opening report that says Americans’ music consumption is downright conspicuous, increasing to the tune of 12.5 percent year over year. Nielsen estimates that in 2017, the average American listened to music about 32 hours per week (up 5.5 hours from the previous year), and, with earbuds snugly in place, people increasingly ingested it via on-demand streaming sources like Spotify and Apple Music. Nielsen reports that on-demand audio streams increased 59 percent last year.
Sounds like awesome news for us music lovers, right? Well, yes. There has never been a more vast, diverse, and readily available body of music to explore. However, only 29 percent of music streamers hold a subscription and so pay for the privilege, according to Nielsen. “That’s a problem,” writes Los Angeles music publisher Abby North in an email. “We have already lost countless songwriters and musicians to other industries. We need to support great musicians so they can continue to share their music with the world.”
Napster’s momentous arrival on the scene nearly 20 years ago planted the seed in the minds of some that music “should be” free. Now, with a $10 monthly payment (or no payment at all if ads don’t bother you), a Spotify subscriber gets instant access to roughly 35 million songs. As of this spring, Spotify had a listener base of 170 million who use it monthly (75 million paid).
The spectacular growth and monetization of streaming (however imperfect) is the big music industry story of the past decade.