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January 9, 2014 | Music Notes Blog

Reading Nielsen's Year-End Sales Stats

Nielsen and Billboard recently released topline sales data on the U.S. music industry for 2013. Unlike previous years, there is a strong – and we think well deserved – emphasis on streaming music listening. Still, we believe there is more to the story, as the streaming component provides important context for a number of reasons.

We are still compiling RIAA year-end revenue numbers for 2013, but looking back at 2012 is illustrative of the importance streaming has already gained for the music industry. A decade ago, the industry earned virtually all its revenue from physical sales. But by 2012, the industry earned nearly 60% of its revenues from digital formats, with about 15% from streaming music, which includes subscription services, on demand streaming services, and Internet and satellite radio (US Music Industry Revenues 2012, below).

Perhaps better illustrating the contribution that streaming is already making to the industry’s health is the RIAA revenue data (Total US Music Industry Sales From Streaming, below). In 2012, U.S. revenues from music streaming services exceeded $1 billion for the first time, and were up 59% versus the previous year. Streaming has quickly become a meaningful contributor, and indications so far are that its role continued to grow in 2013.

Joshua P. Friedlander
Vice President, Strategic Data Analysis, RIAA