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Music: Unit based sales of physical products and digital downloads down significantly


2016 was a year of significant progress for the American music business. Powered by 22.6 million subscriptions, streaming overtook all other formats, generating the majority of industry revenues for the first time. Overall retail revenues grew 11.4%.  An extensive review of the data is available here.

Estimated retail revenues from recorded music in the United States grew 11.4% in 2016 to $7.7 billion. The primary driver of that growth was a doubling of paid streaming music subscriptions which helped the American music business experience its biggest gain since 1998. At wholesale values, the industry was up 9.3% to $5.3 billion. Although our 2016 revenue report catalogues substantial overall improvement for the industry, revenues are still only about half what they were in 1999, and revenues from more traditional unit-based sales (physical products and digital downloads) continued to decline significantly.

Despite this positive news, our “recovery is fragile and fraught with risk,” as Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) Chairman and CEO Cary Sherman explains in a complementary commentary posted on Medium.


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