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Streaming now accounts for 80 percent of the US music market

Kris Holt
Contributing Writer
Billy Steele/Engadget

Streaming has completely reshaped the face of the music industry over the last decade, with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music proving to be overwhelmingly popular with music fans. The Recording Industry Association of America has revealed some stats that underline the mammoth sea change. The organization says streaming accounts for 80 percent of the US music market, compared with seven percent in 2010. Streaming subscriptions rose from about 1.5 million to around 61 million between 2010 and the first half of 2019, according to the RIAA.

Spotify landed in the US in 2011 and Apple Music debuted in 2014. There are many other streaming options around, including Tidal, Pandora, YouTube Music and Amazon Prime Music to name a few. Around 81 percent of Americans now have a smartphone, compared with about 35 percent in 2010. Since it's much easier to use a streaming service than buy digital albums or load MP3s onto a phone (or carry around a separate music player), smartphone adoption has played a key role in the streaming shift.

In 2010, physical sales accounted for 52 percent of the US music market and digital sales 38 percent. Both are now down to a nine percent share. The market share of synch (i.e. licensing music for use in other media) hasn't changed over the last nine years at three percent. But while people aren't buying CDs so much anymore, vinyl's back on the up. Sales rose from a little over $50 million in 2009 to almost $450 million in 2018.

Meanwhile, Taylor Swift (who famously pulled her music from Spotify for a while), Adele and Drake claimed eight of the top ten selling albums of the decade between them. It's not quite clear how their sales figures break down between streams and digital/physical album sales. However, given some of their songs have hundreds of millions of plays on various services, streaming certainly played an important factor.