The music industry is changing, again. We’ve heard this before though, right? Digital downloads were going to kill album sales. But now what about streaming? With more and more options on how to stream your favourite music, it’s no wonder that it’s getting so big, so fast. And because of that, digital downloads are taking a dive. What we don’t hear as much from the music industry is just how much they love getting money from subscription services like Spotify and Apple Music. YouTube, however, doesn’t pay them enough, or so they say.
More than 30 million people are now paying for subscription streaming services in the United States. This actually pushed the streaming revenue up 48%, to $2.5 billion in the first half of the year. Streaming now accounts for 62% of the music business in the United States. The music industry took a hit that started back in 1999 because of Napster. But that actually didn’t stop until a couple of years ago.
In the meantime, iTunes style digital downloads continue to fall. They are down 24%. Because why buy music for a dollar when you can stream almost anything you want for as much as $10 a month. Different subscription services vary. A surprising statistic, however, is related to physical sales. Like things that you can hold in your hand, like an actual vinyl record. Those sales are nearly flat. Down just 1%. Which is weird isn’t it? Like who buys physical music anymore? Apparently, it is hipsters who are pushing vinyl sales up 3%. Which is actually kind of interesting to me. It’s almost like what is old is new again.
Labels have been complaining for several years that YouTube doesn’t pay them nearly enough for all the streams that their service creates. I would wonder how much “control” YouTube would actually have over people posting music on there? I mean, can they moderate every time someone posts something and then take it down if YouTube isn’t paying that particular artist/label?
YouTube is saying that they pay the labels a ton of money and that if they don’t like what’s happening they should take their music off of YouTube. But is that possible? I sometimes go to YouTube to listen to music, but usually just when I want to hear one specific song, over and over again. I typically don’t listen to a lot of music on there, but it makes me wonder if people are using it in lieu of a streaming service.
It’s also fascinating when you see an artist who only launches their music on a particular streaming service. Or when you see the new Apple Watches only allowing you to use their streaming service. So it’s possible that this kind of competition is only going to get more fierce. Because if you have an Apple Watch, and you want to stream music, you’re going to have to subscribe to Apple Music. But what if your favorite artist isn’t putting their songs on Apple Music? It’s all a very confusing time, in my opinion. I hope that some of these platforms will be easier to work together, but I’m not convinced. Stay tuned, I guess.