Streaming became the biggest source of revenue for the music industry in the US for the first time ever last year, new figures have revealed – and the recent trend for buying vinyl has pushed the sector back to 1980s levels.
The streaming category includes subscription services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Jay Z's pet project Tidal. It also includes streaming radio services and other non-subscription on-demand streaming services like YouTube and Vevo.
According to a review by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), streaming accounted for 34.3 per cent of the market, ahead of digital downloads, which contributed 34 per cent. Physical products, such as CDs, made up 28.8 per cent.
Overall revenues in 2015 were up by 0.9 per cent to $7bn (£5bn). The continued growth in streaming services revenue offset a decline in digital download sales and sales of physical products, the RIAA said.
Streaming revenues climbed by 29 per cent last year to hit $2.4bn – the first time the sector has passed the $2bn mark.
Digital accounted for 70 per cent of the US market overall, compared with 67 per cent in 2014. Even though digital download revenues declined 10 per cent to $2.3bn, the total value of digitally distributed formats was up six per cent to $4.8bn, compared to $4.5bn in 2014.
Meanwhile, the total value of shipments in physical formats dropped by 10 per cent on 2014 to $2bn – although vinyl LPs jumped by 32 per cent and, at $416m, hit their highest level since 1988.
Overall, the data for 2015 shows a music industry that continues to adopt digital distribution platforms for the majority of its revenues," said Joshua P Friedlander, senior vice president, strategic data analysis, RIAA.
"While overall revenue levels were only up slightly, large shifts continued to occur under the surface as streaming continued to increase its market share. In 2015, the industry had the most balanced revenue mix in recent history."