But in a world where everything is rented, questions must be asked over budgets, and the evolution of content consumption.
THE NEXT BIG THING
When Apple announced the launch of its dedicated music subscription service in June 2015, many pondered whether the end of iTunes was in sight. Though consumers were favoring services like Spotify over buying songs individually, it appeared that Apple would always hold a flag for its ailing music and video store, which generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Fast-forward five years and the landscape couldn’t be more different, with iTunes all-but-removed from macOS and the iTunes Store no longer the powerhouse it once was, with Apple aggressively pushing its successors - dedicated Apple Music, Apple Books, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV applications - instead.
A new report from the Recording Industry Association of America sheds further light on the situation, showing that streaming services are in control, with digital sales hitting their lowest point since 2006, signaling a shift in the way consumers purchase and consume content. In 2019, revenue from streaming music grew by a quarter, generating more than $11.1 billion across the year, with paid streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music accounting for $6.8 billion of that revenue. The rest comes from adsupported services like YouTube and Spotify’s free music tier, which has remained a popular choice amongst Gen Z.
As well as revenue, subscriber numbers across the United States grew an impressive 29% as more people make the switch from free tiers to premium streaming services, growing from 46.9 million to 60.4 million across the year. At the same time, physical sales of music fell by their biggest percentage to date, and account for just 10% of the overall market, though vinyl has grown for the 14th consecutive year as people continue to revive the format, generating $500 million as a result. In fact, vinyl overtook CD sales for the first time since 1986 in 2019.
But perhaps the most interesting piece of data is music downloads, which account for just 8% of all music sales. When iTunes launched in 2003, it offered just 200,000 songs for sale, but that catalog grew significantly in the decade that followed. It was Apple’s 99-cent songs that caused music executives to claim the company was stripping the value out of music, with artists upset that users could purchase individual tracks rather than be forced to purchase and listen to a whole album. But its buy-to-own mantra was popular, and following the launch of the iPod and iPhone, users were paying billions for their music.
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