RIAA: Streaming Drove Music Industry Growth in H1

Posted on September 13, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Music + Videos with 8 Comments

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said today that paid music streaming accounted for over $6 billion in revenues in the first half of 2021, or about 84 percent of revenues overall.

“New data released today shows just how deeply Americans continue to value and engage with recorded music — listening to more than 840 billion on-demand streams in the first half of the year, a record for any six month period in history and one with substantial room for continued both on audio streaming and on audiovisual platforms like TikTok and Twitch,” RIAA chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier writes in his mid-year appraisal of the market. “Streaming continues to grow in countless ways, expanding its reach as the dominant form of listening today with nearly $6 billion in recorded music revenues so far this year, 84% of the total. Paid subscriptions continued a multi-year trend of strong growth, increasing 13% over the first half of 2020 to a record 82 million.”

Those are some big numbers. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a recording artist who is happy about the revenues that they derive from streaming. I’ve heard figures as low as 7/100th of a cent per stream.

But the RIAA says that streaming beyond traditional music services—via emerging platforms like short-form video, fitness apps, and a host of chat and social apps—starting to deliver meaningful revenues. And even vinyl, which accounts for a tiny slice of the market, has delivered what Glazier calls a “new post-Napster half-year high of $467 million” and growth of 48 percent year-over-year (YOY) after a flat first half of 2020.

You can learn more in the full RIAA report.

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Comments (8)

8 responses to “RIAA: Streaming Drove Music Industry Growth in H1”

  1. mikewaldron

    Paul, what is the "Synch" catagory on the graphic? Are you referring to syncing local content with cloud versions?

    • VMax

      It's the license needed to use music in TV shows, movies etc - they "sync" the music to another form of content (e.g. video).

  2. jbinaz

    The fact artists get paid so little per stream is why I still buy music from the artists I really care about when they release new music - especially lesser-known artists who won't get millions of streaming listens (e.g., one of my favorite bands, The Neal Morse Band).


    On the other hand, I don't purchase music from the back catalog of artists, even if I never purchased it in the past - I just add it to my library. Most of that is probably at least 10 years old, and I figure at this point it's not helping them much.

    • melinau

      It seems perverse that huge corporations make enormous profit from streaming, while the creators often get very little. This seems par for the course for most of the big Tech Giants. I know a few "Major Artistes" have made a decent amount, but like most other musicians their biggest earnings come from gigs etc.

      Covid has made Live Music hard to see, but here in Europe things are improving. Fingers crossed

  3. red.radar

    Seeing the resurgence of vinyl has been fascinating.

    • jgraebner

      It is fascinating, but I also find it incredibly puzzling. I had a fairly substantial record collection back in the 70s and 80s and I remember that it felt like a small miracle when I got my first CD player. Getting rid of the side changes and all the pops, clicks, hiss, and skips made listening to music so much more pleasant. I then spent the years replacing all of my records with the CD versions, sometimes getting very excited when a long-time hold out finally arrived on CD. Of course, I now have digitized my entire collection having ripped all of my CDs to Flac files and most of my new purchases are hi-res digital versions.


      I have very little nostalgia for records and really don't understand why it is now somehow trendy to buy music on a clearly inferior medium.


  4. jchampeau

    As I understand it, successful musical artists have always made more of their money from concerts, merchandise, and other things not under the control of the record labels than from record sales (or now, streams). So whatever the RIAA is reporting on is only part of the economic story. The fact that they titled the pie chart above "U.S. Music Industry Revenues 1H 2021" and left those things out makes me wonder if they're intending to deceive.

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