RIAA Says Streaming Music Outsells Physical Media for First Time

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Revenues from streaming music services surpassed that of sales of physical media for the first time ever in 2015, and that was before the launch of Apple Music. The Recording Industry Association of America issued a mid-year report that said overall revenues were up, pushed in part by streaming revenues that made up for declines in other formats, including downloads and physical media.

"First half (1H) revenues from music streaming services surpassed $1 billion for the first time," the report said, "growing 23% in 2015 to $1.03 billion – up from $834 million for 1H 2014."

Total sales were up 0.8 percent year-over-year to US$2.3 billion. All told, streaming music accounted for 32 percent of revenues, while physical media including CDs and vinyl accounted for 24 percent of revenues. "Permanent downloads" from iTunes, Google Play, , Amazon, and other online stores accounted for 40 percent of sales, still the largest segment.

RIAA Chart Showing Sales Breakdown for 2015

Source: RIAA

"Revenues from permanent digital downloads (including albums, single tracks, videos, and kiosk sales) declined 4% to $1.3 billion for the first half of 2015," the report noted. "Digital albums continued the trend of outperforming individual tracks."

Apple launched Apple Music on June 30th, the last day of the first half of the year. The service has been met with praise and is expected to do well. The three month trial will begin expiring at the end of September, but Apple has been paying royalties even during the free trial period. Accordingly, the company will have an impact on the RIAA's end-of-year report.

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My view on streaming has completely changed in the last year. I used to be solidly - no. I wanted my music on my device. Now I listen to streaming, CBCMusic, more than anything else. It’s less hassle than curating my own.

Lee Dronick

Download sales have exceeded physical ones? It is getting harder and harder to find music CDs in stores. Also with downloads I can usually buy individual tracks, which what mostly what I do.

A few weeks ago my wife was on a trip to visit family and to sightsee. At a gift shop she bought me a CD of folk music. I don’t have a DVD player on my new iMac. To bring it into iTunes I had to insert into my MacBook and use remote disk to bring it over.

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