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US music sales hit decade high as streaming soars
[NEW YORK] Music sales soared anew last year in the United States backed by the rise of streaming, bringing revenue to a level last seen a decade ago, the industry said Thursday.
The Recording Industry Association of America said that revenue grew a robust 16.5 per cent in 2017, marking the first time since 1999 at the dawn of online music that the business has expanded for two years in a row.
Recorded music sales in the world's largest music market from all formats totaled US$8.7 billion, returning to the revenue level seen in 2008 even if it is still 40 per cent below the pre-internet peak.
The growth was almost entirely attributable to the public's embrace of streaming, with subscriptions to paid platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and the new service of retail giant Amazon growing 56 per cent to 35.3 million users.
The biggest loser in the rise of on-demand streaming has been digital downloads on iTunes and elsewhere, which tumbled 25 per cent. Physical sales also fell but were propped up the continued resurgence among audiophiles of vinyl, for which revenue jumped 10 per cent.
With the countervailing trends, revenue from physical sales outpaced digital downloads in the United States for the first time since 2011.
Streaming has been transforming the music business in much of the world, although artists frequently complain that they see little of the industry's newfound bounty.
But Cary Sherman, chairman of the Recording Industry Association of America, pointed to a study that record labels worldwide invested US$4.5 billion in artist development and marketing in 2015.
"More than any other creative industry, music companies successfully transformed themselves ahead of the transition to streaming, all while forging stronger relationships with their most important partner: the artist," he wrote in a blog post.
He reiterated the industry's concerns that antiquated laws have capped revenue from advancing even further. But he voiced hope that the US Congress will soon pass a bill, backed by members of both major parties, that would guarantee that online radio stations pay royalties for songs recorded before 1972, which are exempt under current law.