Why Music is Experiencing the Strongest Industry Growth Since Late 90s

Paid streaming offers a bright spot for the future of the music industry.

Today (September 20), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) reported that the music industry is the strongest it’s been since the late 1990s, thanks to streaming services like Apple Music, TIDAL, Spotify and more.

Through the first six months of 2016, the recording industry has already seen an 8.1% increase in total revenue over the previous year, meaning this is the first year that revenue generated by music subscription services has made up for the year-over-year decline in physical and digital sales.

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Naturally, over time, physical and digital sales dropped as more music become readily available for streaming online. The industry followed suit and continued to evolve their platforms, further monetizing music with premium memberships.

While I’ll admit that seemed pretty lame to me at first—I quickly realized that while I could stream music for free on Spotify, I could only listen to an album in shuffle mode and not in order—I later understood the true upside to paying for a subscription to these services.

We like to complain about streaming services, whether it be the outright cost to subscribe, the restricted access to high-profile releases in cases where the service you don’t pay for locks down exclusivity on a highly-anticipated new album, or in instances where certain tracks are unavailable. Keep in mind, though, that paying for a monthly subscription now gives you access to an incredibly vast library of music for less than the cost of a single album ten years ago.

Instead of paying $10 (or more) for one album (hopefully I enjoy all the tracks), you can now pay $10 a month for an individual account on Apple Music. If you want to enjoy exclusive releases from both Apple and TIDAL, you can do so for less than it cost ten years ago to purchase two albums on CD (without adjusting for inflation).

For years, torrents and peer-to-peer file sharing services allowed you to illegally download music for free, undervaluing the worth of music when the only real alternative was paying for physical copies or digital downloads. Sure, file sharing still exists and piracy continues to run rampant but paid streaming services now provide a happy medium for a consumer who doesn’t want to spend a small fortune on their music library but also doesn’t want to illegally download music.

Apple Music, TIDAL, Spotify and others make it easier to find almost any music you want, consume as much of it as humanly possible, and not feel like a total asshole for stealing it. You might have to deal with the occasional exclusive, but suck it up.

It used to be a lot worse.


By Tara Mahadevan. Follow her on Twitter.

Photo Credit: Instagram