Growth of paid-for streaming services doubles, boosts music industry revenues

The music industry is showing signs of a turnaround, and it's mostly due to the rise of paid-for streaming services.

Revenues raised by subscription services such as Spotify and Tidal went up by 114 per cent in 2016, bringing in around $2.5bn (£2bn), according to stats released by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), via MBW.

The number of people paying for a music streaming service more than doubled, up to 22.6m. Combined with revenues from ad-funded services (such as Spotify's free tier), streaming contributed $3.93bn (£3.15bn) to the pot. That's up 68 per cent on the year before, and accounts for 51 per cent of total revenues for the recorded music industry in the US.

In 2011, streaming accounted for just 9 per cent of revenues.

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Overall, retail revenue from recorded music was up 11.4 per cent to $7.7bn. However, these stats are less heartening when seen in context. Total revenue is still only about half of the 1999 peak, and revenues from downloads as well as physical products like CDs and vinyl continue to decline overall.

Ad-funded streaming, while also increasing, also contributed relatively little revenue. This sector grew 26 per cent to $470m, but made up just 6 per cent of total revenue.

According to Cary Sherman, chairman and CEO of the RIAA, the picture is far from rosy.

"The unfortunate reality is that we have achieved this modest success in spite of our current music licensing and copyright laws, not because of them," he said.

Sherman also accused online platforms of failing to pay musicians their due, singling out YouTube as a prime culprit.

"[YouTube] wrongly exploits legal loopholes to pay creators at rates well below the true value of music," Sherman said.

He noted that it takes 1000 streams on YouTube to earn an artist $1, while the same number of plays on Apple Music would make that artist $7 or more. "That's not the way it should be," he said.

MORE: Vinyl sales earned more than free streaming in 2015

Joe Svetlik

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.