In brief: The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in its mid-year 2021 report found that recorded music revenues in the US grew 27 percent in the first half of this year compared to the same period a year ago, from $5.6 billion to $7.1 billion (at retail value).
Streaming music continues to be the biggest cash cow for the music industry, accounting for 84 percent of all US music industry revenues in the first half of 2021.
In the streaming subset, paid subscriptions led the way by a huge margin. In the first half, paid subscriptions generated $4.6 billion. That’s nearly two-thirds of total music revenues, and represents an increase of 26 percent year over year.
The number of subscriptions increased, too, reaching a record of 82 million in the half. That represents growth of 13 percent compared to the 73 million subscriptions in the first half of 2020.
Digital downloads, once a leading revenue channel, accounted for just five percent of total revenues – or $319 million – in the half.
Physical music sales continued to impress, especially vinyl. In the first half of 2021, revenues from vinyl albums increased 94 percent to $467 million. Of course, comparisons in this category are a bit unfair considering Covid-19 lockdowns had a major impact on physical music sales last year.
Sales of CDs are up 44 percent so far this year, but are still 19 percent lower than they were in 2019 before the pandemic.