Digital downloads are continuing their downward spiral, with revenues falling just over 25% to $1.3bn last year, according to RIAA 2017 revenue statistics. That means physical product revenues have trumped those from digital music downloads for the first time since 2011.
It’s no newsflash perhaps - after all, vinyl sales started surpassing digital downloads in 2016. Apple has recently scrapped its iTunes LP download format, and Music Business Worldwide has previously been quite clear about it: “If single-track sales continue to fall at this rate, purchases from download stores such as iTunes would be non-existent by 2020.”
Shipments of physical products as a collective also decreased 4% to $1.5bn in 2017, although on the plus side that’s almost half the rate of decline than in recent years - last year’s report for 2016 showed a 20.5 per cent drop in music downloads and a 7.6 per cent decline in revenue from physical formats.
That’s through no fault of vinyl, which continues to be the leading light of physical formats (natch), with revenues up 10% to $395 million. CDs continue to decline, however, falling 6% in 2017 to $1.1 billion.
But downloads and phyical formats are still in the shadow of music streaming. While revenues from physical products made up 17% of the industry total in 2017, that for the ever-growing streaming platforms made up the bulk (65%), with paid subscriptions currently the industry’s biggest growth driver.