Are Paid Music Downloads Headed for Extinction by 2020?

Remember when downloads were going to be saviour of the music industry? “Sure CDs are falling,” said music industry execs, “but we predict that those lost sales will be replaced by people purchasing digital copies of albums. Just be calm and carry on.”

Yeah, no.

Downloads of single tracks have cratered over the last four years, dropping by 42% in the US (sales suck in Canada, too, by the way). In the first six months of 2016, download sales have fallen 24%. At this rate, the market for paid downloads will be close to dead by 2020.

Who will be affected the most? Apple, for one. At one point, iTunes had a 70% share of a worldwide market worth billions. Revenues are now falling at an annualized rate of $300 million.

Dropping digital sales

So where are people getting their music? Streaming. Consumption in the US increased nearly 100% over the last year. Canadian consumption is up around 68%.

Could Apple turn off the iTunes store sometime in the near future? Don’t bet against it. More at MBW.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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