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Streaming represented nearly 80 percent of US music revenue in 2019

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor
Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Streaming is even more vital to the music industry than it was a year ago. The RIAA has reported that streaming represented 79 percent ($8.8 billion) of American music revenue in 2019, compared to 75 percent the year before. And crucially, more of those were paid subscribers. There were 60.4 million paying customers for services like Apple Music and Spotify, representing 61 percent ($6.8 billion) of the entire industry's revenue -- a big step up from 46.9 million subscribers and 55 percent in 2018.

You likely know what that said about other music formats. Physical music sales were down from 12 percent in 2018 to 10 percent, while downloads fell even further from 11 percent to 8 percent. Most of the decline in hard copies came down to sinking CD sales, which more than negated a 19 percent bump for vinyl (which still represents just 4.5 percent of total revenue). For the most part, streaming is music in the US -- artists ignore that medium at their peril.

US music industry revenue by format in 2019

The American music industry's overall take continued its resurgence in 2019, climbing nearly 13 percent to $11.1 billion. The RIAA didn't go into detail about why it thought business was on the upswing besides generic claims about "great music" and successful partnerships that helped "increase competition and choice." However, it may simply be a matter of how people listen to music. It's easier to justify paying for music when streaming lets you listen on virtually any device you own.

As usual, though, the RIAA has its qualms. It's not convinced creators are getting an "appropriate share" from many services (though labels themselves have been accused of depriving artists). And once again, the association believes tech companies aren't doing enough to prevent stream ripping and other instances of piracy. While the industry is facing a brighter future than it did during the past couple of decades, the RIAA still feels as if it's being held back.