Music downloads could be no more by 2020

Nielsen’s figures are for single-track download sales and confirm that purchases of songs have fallen 24 per cent, or 127.3 million, in the first half of 2016 (year-on-year).

Figures also show how much track downloads have plummeted since their peak in 2012. US download sales in the first half of 2016 were 404.3 million, compared to the 2012 peak of 698 million sales.

Music Business Worldwide spells it out pretty clearly: “If single-track sales continue to fall at this rate, purchases from download stores such as iTunes would be non-existent by 2020.”

With US track sales typically costing $1.29, the drop in downloads since 2012 represents a loss of $300m a year. Since iTunes is one of the biggest music download sites, the fall in revenue is likely to have a big effect on Apple's iTunes business. No wonder that it's sniffing around Tidal with a view to expanding its Apple Music streaming service.

The findings are yet more evidence to show that music streaming is growing at a rapid rate, up 97.4 per cent in the US year-on-year. Nielsen says the total number of audio streams in the US in the first half of 2016 was 113.6bn, or 431,000 streams a minute.

Digital album sales aren’t safe either: sales of those fell 18.4 per cent, or 9.9 million units in the US over the past year. “If [digital album] sales continue to fall at 9.9 million units a year, they would be in single figures by 2020 and vanish by 2021,” says MBW.

Source: Music Business Worldwide

Max is a staff writer for What Hi-Fi?'s sister site, TechRadar, in Australia. But being the wonderful English guy he is, he helps out with content across a number of Future sites, including What Hi-Fi?. It wouldn't be his first exposure to the world of all things hi-fi and home cinema, as his first role in technology journalism was with What Hi-Fi? in the UK. Clearly he pined to return after making the move to Australia and the team have welcomed him back with arms wide open.