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Recorded Music Revenue Jumps 27%, Appears Completely Recession-Proof

The numbers are fantastic, and will hopefully lead to better pay for the artists…

By Paul Marszalek

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has released its first-half revenue stats, and they are nothing short of amazing. When compared to first-half revenue from 2020, the industry grew 27% over last year.

The recorded music industry grew, ever so slightly, from 2019 to 2020. It now jumps from $5.6 billion to $7.1 billion when comparing first-half 2020 to first half 2021.

The key takeaway is this: The recorded music industry appears to be virtually recession-proof. This will be the story touted by streamers and labels alike, as the latter debut initial public offerings. It’s a dream scenario for companies looking to sell stock.

It’s also a potential dream scenario for artists who have lawmakers’ ears around the world, making an increasingly strong case that they’re unfairly compensated. (And we all know they are.)

While the gains were expected in streaming, there was also a bounce-back in physical sales revenue, which may be surprising due to trouble continued at retail, a constricted content pipeline, and insufficient vinyl production capacity.

Selected Slides:

As expected, it’s all about streaming as paid subscriptions in the U.S. added nearly 10 million paid subs year-over-year- now 82.1 million.
Along with subscription growth, ad-supported services bounced back as well, up 54% to $741 million.
A number of factors may have affected the jump in physical sales. For example, retail was greatly affected in the first half of 2020, and Record Store Day 2020 did not happen in the first half of the year. Further, the content pipeline was meager as release dates were pushed. Still, vinyl was up 94% to $467 million. Interestingly, CD sales have bounced back somewhat, up 44 to $209 million. But CDs are still down from 2019. Again, pipeline may be a factor.
Digital downloads fell 6%, with tracks down 12% and albums down 6%. To be determined is how much of the decline is due to a disrupted pipeline, or if it is simply steady erosion.

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