Report: Digital Download Revenues In The Music Industry Have Dropped By 50% In Just Four Years – Forbes


A look at digital download revenues in the music industry at the mid-year mark over the past half decade (RIAA).

When is the last time you purchased a digital copy of a song or an album from an online retailer like iTunes or Amazon? If you’re like many American— even those who love music—it’s possible it’s been a few years since you bought anything.

According to a report published recently by the RIAA (the Recording Industry Association of America) looking at the state of the music industry at 2017’s halfway point, paid digital downloads are suffering the most, declining at a faster rate than even physical products, which many declared dead years ago.

Thus far in 2017, total digital download revenues added up to only $757 million, which is a shockingly low sum for the vertical. That number is down 24% from the same time just one year ago, when the category brought in just under $1 billion. Breaking that figure down, revenue from the sale of individual songs was down 23%, while digital albums were hurting even more, dropping by 26% when compared with 2016.

Halfway through 2017 (which the numbers in the report reflect, even though the year is now well past the six-month mark), all the money brought in from digital downloads only accounted for 19% of the industry’s collective total, and it is quickly losing ground to streaming, which seems unstoppable at the moment.

A quick look at the past few years of digital downloads shows that revenues have been cut in half in just four years. At the midway point of 2013, the sale of both songs and albums brought in $1.544 billion, which is just slightly more than twice as much as has been collected so far in 2017.

Digital downloads of songs and albums revolutionized the music industry less than 20 years ago, as piracy was gutting the business. Sites like iTunes helped bring in some much-needed income, and for many years, the category experienced explosive growth. It is surprising to see any format rise and decline as rapidly and dramatically as digital downloads have, and it highlights the volatile nature of the music industry, which now changes every few decades thanks to new technological advancements.


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