Streaming Drives U.S. Recorded Music to Record $17 Billion

U.S. recorded music revenue grew 8 percent in 2023, to an estimated record high of $17.1 billion at retail. It was the eighth consecutive year of growth, according to the RIAA, which says streaming continued to be the biggest driver, notching new heights of paid subscriptions, robust growth in ad-supported listening, and healthy increased contributions from new platforms. Streaming accounted for 84 percent of retail revenue, at $14.4 billion including from 96.8 million paid subscriptions. On the supply-side, wholesale revenue grew 7 percent to $11 billion, also a record.

But Variety cautions it’s not all good news, observing “there’s no question that the streaming boom of the past decade, which produced years of double-digit growth, is leveling off and the industry is reacting with layoffs and talk of a ‘transformational moment’ in the months and years to come.”

RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier “sounded a warning about what he called ‘the mushrooming threat of generative artificial intelligence,’ noting that without ‘thoughtful and effective guardrails,’ recorded music’s growth and cultural reach are at risk,” according to Forbes.

Conceding generative AI tools can aid human creativity, Glazier said in a statement that irresponsible use “could stifle a generation of artists across all mediums.” The RIAA supports the music-specific No AI FRAUD Act, introduced in the House in January.

Billboard contextualizes that while the RIAA’s “record” $17.1 billion figure “marks the third straight year that the business has set a record for revenue — previously set in 1999, when revenue hit $14.6 billion prior to Napster taking hold — when adjusted for inflation, it still falls far below that 1999 figure, which would be $26.9 billion at current rates.”

Even streaming is not all rosy. Limited tier subscriptions (services limited by factors such as mobile access, catalog availability, product features, or device restrictions, including Amazon Prime and Pandora Plus and fitness feeds) fell 4 percent to $1 billion, according to the RIAA report.

Physical media (vinyl, CDs, cassettes) enjoyed 11 percent growth, while digital downloads increased 3 percent and sync licensing 2 percent.

Vinyl Records Outsell CDs for the Second Year Running, The Verge, 3/26/24

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