iTunes Song Downloads Will Drop 39% In Five Years…

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Last year was the first year that iTunes song downloads declined, ever.  Get used to that trend: according to a finding just released by MIDiA Research, song downloads will drop 39% over the next five years, thanks to aggressive gains in streaming.  “Streaming has driven new market growth in countries such as Sweden but in larger markets such as the US it is denting digital music buying,” MIDiA founder Mark Mulligan bluntly stated.

“The first wave of subscribers was harvested directly from the most valuable download buyers, denting download sales in the process.  23% of music streamers used to buy more than one album a month but no longer do so.”

Eventually, streaming will cannibalize all recording things.  “Download sales are affected most and will continue to feel the pinch with 45% of all music downloaders also music streamers,” Mulligan continued.  “Thus, although streaming and subscriptions will grow by 238% on 2013 levels to reach $8 billion in 2019, download revenue will decline by 39% – only five percent less than the rate at which CD revenues will fall – leaving streaming and subscriptions representing 70% of all digital revenue.”


Graph by Digital Music News.  Written while listening to a bunch of deep house.


115 Responses

    • TuneHunter

      S. Jobs was always believer of music ownership! As he abandoned us labels boys under pressure from Google and stupefying promises from Spotify endorsed by Napster founder and Facebook gave away the business!

      Well the good news is that “proven” business models created by Mr.Ek and YouTube have very limited money generating potential. We should hope that powerful folks, also those who pulverize music at the moment, will opt for $100B industry in place of $35B industry created at the expense of musicians and Radio.

      • tuneHunter

        Mr. Muligan is so excited about streaming but at the same time he has the most pessimistic outlook:
        …$8B in streaming revenues by 2019 and recording almost gone?!

        Is music industry operated by mutants from foreign civilization?

        1999 equals after inflation $56B and we have plenty of misused assets to create $100B industry by 2020.

        Let’s just empower the best goat trader from Kazakhstan to sort all the issues.

    • Anonymous

      It didn’t — but it was the only way for artists to make a living from recorded music. Now, they have to find new solutions.

      Please see my 3-point survival strategy below…

  1. Anonymous

    iTunes won’t drop 39% in five years — it will drop dead because of YouTube Music Key.

    Survival strategy:

    1) Use Twitter as your primary site. Twitter’s most popular accounts now have 50% more followers than the most popular YouTube channel — the most popular YouTube channel, PewDiePie, closed its comment section forever last week and moved it to… Twitter.

    2) Use a better-paying YouTube alternative such as (when it’s out of beta) and embed its videos on Twitter. Then you’re not forced to make your entire catalogs available for free on release day, as is the case with YouTube Music Key.

    3) Use an unrestricted crowdfunding service like Patreon instead of YouTube’s limited version.


      SURVIVAL strategy??

      Who the fuck put you in charge?

      The only fucking strategy most of us will ever have, is to collectively mount the fuck up and play some long game and straight balls out thug on people, especially those white haired dinosaur jurisdiction rules players. It may result in having to strap up and be willing to man up and put a gun in peoples faces, smash some heads in, whatever it takes. Begging to politicians is a tiddly winks play, overthrowing them all, now that might get people somewhere. Of course finding a way to legally do it is getting near impossible, which is exactly how they play!

      They are fucking conquerors, only years removed from bloodily and gorily slicing and dicing flesh people for their power and control. Survival? Sounds like a whimpering fucking knee buckling suicide!! I can think of plenty of easier and quicker ways to remove myself from their equation beyond slaving for fractions of pennies and shit.

      There is no survival when others own the planet and all the systems and all the jurisdictions and all the money. Unless you familied up or dynastied up or legacied up with one of those super big crews, then you’re just a piss ant slave that cant do anything and cant make anything happen.

      Survival plan? Not sure what world yall are living in but it certainly ain’t mine!!!



      • Anonymous

        “It may result in having to strap up and be willing to man up and put a gun in peoples faces

        Sorry, you lost me there dude — let’s get back to the 3-point survival strategy. Any suggestions how to improve it?

        • Justin Mayer... :)

          um, to the 3 point survival strategy?? You mean your survival strategy right? Or is it some widespread manifesto people are on??? …

          Let’s see, step 1. Rip it up, crumple it up, and toss it out…

          I dont suggest violence or hurting anyone, all im saying is we are dealing with people who behead people, who take swords and slice and dice flesh people viciously to ensure they can conquer and control and own and manipulate and preserve and perpetuate their importance and lineage, period. Its a historical fact.

          Why people suddenly think because they are now here that for some miraculous reason things have changed and that everyone is just so kind and peaceful looking to help everyone and not hurt or condemn anyone is fucking beyond me. Clueless narcissistic delusional people if you ask me. Like 2014 isnt just a continuation from the stone ages. Brutal nasty history has built the human species to where it is today.

          Good luck surviving with a strategy like that.

          Music is a piss in the wind in the big scheme of things, if that is some wide spread survival strategy, then let me give yall the 21 gun salute for your pseudo fronting army send off!!!

          Apologies for my rudeness and apparent aggressive tone, im about survival and all im seeing out there are suicide missions and small minded penny ante shortsighted ideas.

          Dont shoot the messenger here unless its with a camera or a video camera that will result in money in the pockets or assets on the books.



          • Anonymous

            Weird, I don’t know how a person could mistype as

          • Justin Mayer

            dont hate the playa hate the game! 😉

            i have a fiduciary responsibility to keep my ear to the ground regarding music and the music business and right now this happens to be one place i occasionally check out, forgive me.

          • Anonymous

            Don’t get me wrong, I think you should comment on EVERY article on this site. Come often, stay late.

          • Anonymous

            “we are dealing with people who behead people”

            Um, no — we’re dealing with iTunes, Patreon, YouTube alternatives.

            You know, music industry stuff.

          • Anonymous

            Erm, music’s just a part of my life, in my life as is currently as real as it gets, yes, yes we are dealing with that.

      • Anonymous

        So much bad language – learn to deliver your “opinions” in a less vulgar way, or people like me simply won’t take you seriously!

  2. Anonymous

    Downloads will drop much faster than this once Apple itself starts pushing people away from downloads and towards streaming, and since the Beats Music people are already mixing with the Apple teams that may be sooner rather than later.

      • FarePlay

        Well Casey, then we’ll have a real problem, because Spotify will tank in 2 to 3 years and this entire house of cards along with it with the possible exception of Beats Music. Why Beats Music? Even if diminished, they will make money from iTunes and all the devices Apple sells to access and play music.

  3. wallow-T

    The transition from MP3/AAC files, accumulated by the public, to streaming should have been seen as inevitable once the hardware market stopped producing iPods/Zunes/phones/tablets with capacities of 80 gigabytes – 160 gigabytes. There has not been a new mass-market player with more than 64G in about 7 years. 32 G seems to be the market sweet spot now; 64 G models are only for elderly data hogs like myself.

    Me, I have a 64 G iPod which holds about 400 albums and I am now having to delete some albums from it everytime I want to buy new ones.

  4. jw

    This type of thinking has been the industry’s problem for years.

    When you have cancer, you don’t say, “I want to get better, but I don’t want to feel bad in the interim.” You say, “I’ll do whatever it takes to get better. I’m most concerned with survival.”

    The current course (without streaming) is OBVIOUSLY disaster, so of course it’s going to get better before it gets worse. This requirement that streaming should have to make up for the drop in digital download sales is like saying that chemo shouldn’t have any negative side effects. It’s just inane.

    Streaming is only going to become profitable once a critical mass is reached, & you can’t just go out & recruit casual music fans from the start. OF COURSE the biggest music fans are going to be the early adopters. Streaming AND buying digital downloads makes no sense. Streaming makes digital downloads obsolete. BUT I’ll bet that a lot of those consumers are buying vinyl. I pay for Spotify streaming & I bought 8 records in August. And I actually pirated the one record I was curious about, but wasn’t on streaming services, for whatever that’s worth.

    • Hue Manity

      “Streaming makes digital downloads obsolete…”

      This argument cracks me up.

      Okay, let’s review: When you click on your mouse to stream a song, you send a signal down the mouse, through your computer, up the telephone pole, over an Internet (or cellular) network, hundreds or thousands of miles away to a server farm, TO ACCESS A FILE! So technologically, streaming can NEVER make the digital file obsolete!

      If files become obsolete, will radio programmers suddenly start streaming their programming instead of storing files on their hard drives? Of course not! Why? Because STREAMING IS LESS RELIABLE and always will be less reliable than files because you have to have an Internet connection to stream THE FILE! As a consumer I want that reliability and better sound quality as well! And I’m sure I’m not the only one who has glitches, stalls, stutters, and buffering in my Spotify account or on YouTube.

      Of course, I could always SYNC my songs onto my phone right? Oh wait, what is a sync again? Oh yeah, IT’S A DOWNLOAD!

      My question is, why can’t we have both streaming and downloads? Why are we being herded into this streaming model as if we’re going to delete all those gigs of music we’ve been collecting over the past decade or more? Sorry. Ain’t gonna happen!

      • jw

        If you’re going to be condescending, let’s be very clear about this… I’m not saying that local playback is obsolete, I’m saying that digital downloads are obsolete. There is a big difference there. Most of my Spotify playback is local, cached files, unless it’s the first time I’m listening to a song on a particular device. Local playback is efficient. And local playback of synced songs can come in very handy on, for instance, a subway ride, which is one of the rare instances I wouldn’t have internet access. (Anecdotally, I don’t ride a subway & have on songs synced to my phone or laptop.) But, provided you have decent internet access, there is no discernible difference between local playback & streaming playback, as far as the consumer experience is concerned. I don’t experience any of the glitches, stalls, stutters, or buffering that you’re describing. (It could be that you have shitty internet or poor cell service, in which case you might consider switching providers & giving streaming another try.)

        But riddle me this… what is the value of paying $1.29 for a song when all of my bases are covered by Spotify? I don’t see it. I don’t think you can make an argument for it. And so it’s obsolete. It’s a model that’s tied to a time period where hi-speed internet wasn’t readily available.

        Of course, there are edge cases. I actually have a large collection of local files in my Spotify directory… indie releases, demos, unreleased music, bootlegs, live recordings, etc. But that only proves the point… I switch back & forth seamlessly between local files & streaming files. Experientially, one doesn’t respond any differently than the other. If these files were available to stream, I would delete them from my hard drive.

        It sounds like you’ve just built up a collection & are sentimentally attached to it. And there’s no reason for that. It’s all just 1s & 0s, after all. Your argument is regressive, & tantamount to the old argument that hard drives can fail, & so CDs will never be obsolete. Incidentally, streaming eliminates your vulnerability to a hard drive crash, a stolen iPod, etc.

        • jw

          That should read “I don’t ride a subway & have no songs synced to my phone or laptop.”


        • Hue Manity


          I’m glad to hear that you agree with me on so many fronts and I didn’t mean to be condescending.

          It’s good to hear you feel the same as I do, and that consumers should have as many options as possible. I just want the music industry, computer makers, and the auto manufacturers to offer me MORE options not take them away! To me, streaming is just another option.

          To answer your “riddle” – I’m really happy that you’re happy. You’re all set and streaming is all you’ll ever need! You can delete your download collection and never use files again. But don’t impose that model on me! You can use technology your way and I will use it mine. To me, anything with 1s and 0s is still digital and therefore NOT obsolete.

          Yes, I do have a collection that I’ve built up over the years that I’m sentimentally attached to (and who isn’t?) That collection is in my Spotify account. It’s on my hard drive, it’s also on a second hard drive (just in case the first one crashes) and on several flash drives. I only use streaming to discover music and decide if I want to own it. And if I find something new that I like, I can add that to my collection in just a few minutes and I will now own that song in my collection permanently. Yes, it’s a little more hassle, but to me its worth it.

          Another way to look at this? You pay $5-10 a month (plus data) to stream ad free each month. I pay 99 cents (or $1.29) per song to add another 3-5 minutes of higher quality music to my collection permanently allowing me to NEVER have to listen to commercials again. I’ve now eliminated a monthly expense that I don’t see a need for. And my player will work in a subway, on a plane, in the mountains, in a foreign country, in the middle of the desert, or in places where streaming doesn’t. There are a lot of places in the US where cell phones don’t even work, not to mention streaming.

          I don’t anticipate changing carriers from Verizon FIOS and my iPhone 5 (“shitty” carrier as you described it) to T-Mobile/Sprint any time soon. But to state that streaming is seamless and never skips or buffers for anyone anywhere is ridiculous. I see it happen on many computers and on many networks.

          My frustration is not with you, it is with an industry that is leading us down the path of inferior quality so that they can wrestle the monopoly on music back from Apple. Because that’s what’s really going on here.

          • Hue Manity

            Here’s another answer to your “riddle” JW. Did automobile leases cause customers to stop buying cars? No. The lease had its advantages (mostly for business) but for most people the outright purchase of a vehicle was a better option.

            Streaming subscriptions are to leasing a car, as downloads are to buying a car. Some people will have a preference and others will want to use both. So there you go.

          • jw

            This is a very, very, very terrible analogy.

            In reality, a monthly Spotify payment ($10) is appx the amount of a digital download album ($10). So say you’re buying 1 album per month, & that’s your car payment. So let’s say you’re paying $400/mo for a car, & at the end you get to keep it. Or you could pay $400/mo indefinitely, but you get access to every car on the lot, & also all of the dealership’s services for free. Furthermore, you get access to any car on any lot, anywhere in the country.

            What you fail to realize is that the products are different. It’s not about leasing a single car versus buying a single car. It’s 1 song versus 20m songs. It’s about having to download & backup a song, transfer it from device to device manually, etc, versus accessing all of the music instantly from any device, & having the ability to sync it, too. It’s about socially sharing playlists, discovery features, etc.

          • hippydog

            actually its not that bad of an analogy..
            Whats different is when people bought cassettes and LP’s the # of hours a person could ‘play’ the music was limited.. IE: Can you keep a car in great shape for 25 years? sure, but only by NEVER actually driving it..

            CD’s changed all that.. Digital “Ownership” became somewhat permanent.. (digital copies do not degrade)

          • jw

            Trust me, it’s a terrible analogy. Because a digital download & access to the entire history of recorded music are two completely different products. It’s not merely different acquisition models for the same product. At the very least, he’s comparing purchasing a personal vehicle versus leasing an entire fleet of vehicles. An individual has no use for a fleet of vehicles, but most people can take advantage of, again, the entire history of recorded music. The analogy doesn’t work on any level. If someone told me “Well you could buy the new Ryan Adams record, or you could just lease it month-to-month,” I would look at him or her like he or she was crazy. But if you throw in everything else, it becomes a completely different scenario.

            Anyhow, CDs don’t last forever. The digital component reduces wear because you’re using a laser rather than a physical mechanism to read the data, but the CD itself is rather fragile. Over time, CDs rot & become unplayable. At some point they’ll all be worthless. But digital streaming libraries can easily be maintained through automated backup mechanisms.


          • jw

            I’m not trying to take away your MP3s. I’m just saying you’d be better off without them.

            If you’ve got “all those gigs” of music, that’s what? ~250 songs per gig, so… 1,000 songs? At $1.29/ea, that’s $1,290, or over 10 years worth of Spotify subscription. Only you’d have access to 20 million songs, rather than just 1,000. And you could sync those 1,000, & listen to them at the top of Mount Everest if you wanted to. And if you’ve been building this collection over years & years & years, you’ve probably got some 128kbps songs, some 160kbps songs, some 192kbps songs, & some 256kbps songs. Maybe some 320kbps songs, too. Well, Spotify Premium’s songs are all 320kbps. And as bandwidth & storage technology advances, so does the quality of the songs. So one day soon all of those songs will be streaming at CD quality, & you’ll be stuck with your compressed mp3s (or m4as or what have you). Oh, & with Spotify Premium there is no commercials. And no more backing up. No more risk of data loss. And syncing across multiple devices.

            I’m not trying to take away your mp3s, I’m simply advising you that you’re using obsolete technology. You can keep your mp3s, for all I care, I’m just saying that the industry should be embracing streaming & worrying less about prolonging the life of an obsolete format. It’s detrimental any way you look at it.

          • Hue Manity

            You act as if I don’t use streaming when I do? I use many forms of audio. But high quality files are my preference. I want to use BOTH. Is that okay with you? Really, I’m asking… do you mind? Because the iTunes store isn’t going anywhere. They have a lot of other products besides music.

            Streaming is really nothing new. It’s been around since the ’90s. The only difference is that it really sucked when it came out, and now it just sucks less.

            As far as the future goes, I see a world where file and streaming compression are abandoned because we now have 5-10 terabytes of memory in our handheld devices. Our Internet pipes will be so fast that huge files will be delivered instantly. Moore’s Law tells us we’ll be there one day.

            If I’m right, then its streaming that would become obsolete. I rest my case.

            Good night JW.

          • jw

            >> You act as if I don’t use streaming when I do? I use many forms of audio. But high quality
            >> files are my preference.

            It seems like you’re suggesting that iTunes downloads are higher quality than Spotify Premium streams? iTunes are 256kbps aac, Spotify is 320kbps ogg. So it seems like if high quality files are your preference, you’d be going with Spotify Premium.

            You’re entitled to your opinion, as far as whether streaming sucks more, less, or at all. I just want to make sure that you’re basing your opinion on the facts. That’s all.

          • Hue Manity

            You go ahead and keep believing that everything on Spotify is 320 kbps. If you want lossless streaming you might want to try WiMP, Tidal, Qobuz, FLAC, ALAC, or how down sampling from the red book standard studio master? It doesn’t get any better than that? But it almost sounds like you work for Spotify so that’s probably not going to happen any time soon.

            I don’t care what it is, if your connection goes down, you’re screwed unless you resort back to file technology.
            And without the file, you can’t stream. That was my whole point.

            And by the way, you have no clue how an auto lease works.

          • jw

            You do make one good point.

            Not all music on Spotify is 320kbps. That is ultimately dependent on the source that they receive from the label (or artist, in some cases). This could cause complications as Spotify wishes to upgrade the quality of it’s library in the future. Then again, the exact same thing can be said of the iTunes store.

            And, for the record, I don’t work for Spotify.

          • Tsiokawe


            I am patently aware of the ongoing debate concerning the quality of sound, specifically, the cd quality (Bit Rate: 1,411.2 kbps) versus mp3 quality (Bit Rate: 256 kbps) debate. Having previously had an opportunity to be actively involved in the production, manufacture and distribution of cd’s as well as digital mp3’s throughout the various stages of the process (for example, Blinded In Bliss and Cynicist), I think that that controversy can be easily laid to rest by simply converting a mp3 purchased on iTunes to a .wav file format (while in iTunes, simply right-click, scroll down and click on the “Create WAV Version”) – and wallah, end of debate!!!

            For example, while in iTunes, hover over a purchased song, click “Get Info” for the song and, in addition to the artist and song information, among other things, you will see information such as that posted below (although there may be a difference as to the sample size, id est, 16 bit or 24 bit – please note that the sample size is not listed for many of the songs listed on iTunes and as a 24 bit recording is of higher quality than a 16 bit recording, and given that those involved in the recording process are presumably knowledgeable in that regard, I am reasonably certain that those tracks are 24 bit recordings – the sample rate should be 44,100 kHz or higher as well):

            Kind: Purchased AAC audio file
            Size: 8 MB
            Bit Rate: 256 kbps
            Sample Rate: 44,100 kHz

            Then, while hovering over the song, just scroll further down and click on the “Create WAV Version” (now, depending on the particular song, after creating the new .wav file version, hover over the new .wav file version, click “Get Info” and you should see information like that posted below):

            Kind: WAV audio file
            Size: 39.8 MB
            Bit Rate: 1,411 kbps
            Sample Rate: 44,100 kHz

            Thus, although a song may be purchased in an mp3 format, as the song can be converted to a .wav file format which is, in essence, cd quality (provided that the songs are 24 bit recordings with a 44,100 kHz or higher sample rate), there is the added convenience of the mp3 format which can be uploaded to an mp3 player, ipod or other personal portable playback device.

            The mp3 can then be further converted to a .wav file format and, if so desired, copied to a blank cd for personal use, that is to say, one file (the .wav file) for home use in situations where there are greater file storage availability options (such as a personal home computer) and higher quality playback equipment available, one file (the mp3 file) when there are lesser file storage availability options (such as a mp3 player or ipod), and one “file” (the compact disc) for use in the personal home stereo, car or boat – for further added convenience and portability!!!

            Obviously, the option to convert a song from a mp3 file format to a .wav file format and, if so desired, to further copy the .wav file to a blank compact disc are not available through online digital music services such as Pandora and Spotify.

          • jw

            Also, the future of computing isn’t local storage of data.

            In the future, operating systems & apps will exist on our devices. And individual files (photos, songs, bank records, documents, etc) will exist on the cloud. So a single spreadsheet could be accessed from your laptop or your tablet or your phone. And a song can be accessed from your laptop or your tablet or your phone or the receiver in your car or whatever. This is, without question, the direction technology is headed. It’s the most efficient way to handle data across multiple devices.

            There is nothing to support your idea that, in the future, digital music downloads will be stored locally on devices. In fact, that idea is contrary to every single trend in mobile computing. Storing multiple copies of a file across numerous devices is extremely inefficient.

            This is why I’m making the argument that digital music downloads are obsolete.

          • Yep

            Streaming is definitely the future of the music business. There is absolutely no doubt about that at all.

            We are still in the early stages. New formats take time to shift from an experimental phase to the tipping point of main stream adoption.

            It took 2-3 years with CD’s. In the UK CD players began to enter stores and homes around 1983 /1984.

            I think we’re still in the early adopters phase.

          • Anonymous

            “Streaming is definitely the future of the music business”

            Indeed — for Eric Schmidt and other Google fat cats.

          • Versus

            “At $1.29/ea, that’s $1,290, or over 10 years worth of Spotify subscription. Only you’d have access to 20 million songs, rather than just 1,000. ”

            That means Spotify is charging far too little, and hence paying out far too little.

          • jw

            That’s actually not what it means at all.

            If he built the collection over the last 11 years that the iTunes store has existed, then it’s actually dead on, because the same revenue is about 10.5 years worth of Spotify subscription. The only difference is that the revenue would be split across more artists.

            Then again, I pulled the number 1,000 out of thin air specifically to make that point. His music collection could be larger or smaller than that.

            The value of a subscription service is ultimately determined by what a consumer is willing to pay, not what you think people ought to pay. Because everyone has the option of just saying no. And it’s worth a different price to different consumers, depending on how much they perceive themselves using the service in a given month. So you have to find a compromise that maximizes revenue. And you would think that Spotify wants their cut to be as large as possible.

            If you really think that Spotify is charging “far” too little, you’re incredibly out of touch with reality.

    • Anonymous

      “I actually pirated the one record”

      Ah, you’re just a criminal. That explains so much.

      • jw

        Put me in jail.

        Then you’ll have 1 less Spotify premium subscriber & dozens & dozens of extra vinyl records on the shelves.

        Sounds like a net loss for artists to me.

        • Anonymous

          Easy now.

          A stolen song is worth $150,000 — let him pay and move on.

          • jw

            “Worth” lmao

            None of these songs on this record were worth $150,000, I’ll tell you that much. Not in any context.

            I mean there’s some good songs, don’t get me wrong, but I’m debating whether or not it’s even worth $15 for the vinyl.

    • Versus

      Streaming does not make downloads obsolete; you can play downloads without being online. Try to stream without a connection.

      • jw

        Very rarely if ever am I in a situation where I don’t have an internet connection.

        And for the times that I’m not, I can sync songs to any of my devices & play them in offline mode. (Like on a plane, for instance. Or on a subway.)

        Have you ever actually used premium streaming?

      • Anonymous

        “Try to stream without a connection”

        That’s easy — when Google launches YouTube Music Key. 🙁


        1) YouTube Music Key kills iTunes because it delivers free downloads (it uses the euphemism ‘off-line streaming’).

        2) YouTube Music Key kills Spotify because it doesn’t allow windowing. Consumers can find all major labels releases, without exception, on YouTube Music Key while Spotify is reduced to a museum because of windowing.

        3) YouTube Music Key kills the major labels because Google makes UMG/Sony/Warner’s entire catalogs available for free, on release day, prohibiting exclusive iTunes releases.

        4) YouTube Music Key kills the major label artists and anyone else who signs with Google for the same reason.

  5. Willis

    Is it really technology that is mostly to blame for killing music? Or is it the quality of music that is produced in recent years?

    • jw

      Music is better than it has been in a long, long time. Anything you could possibly want, there are people out there doing it really, really well. And that’s a product of the internet. It wasn’t like that in 1999, at the commercial height of the recorded music industry. And there’s a live boom where tons of really great acts can fill theaters. Maybe the stadium acts, who are few & far between, are terrible, but I don’t know how anyone who’s putting any effort into finding new music can have any complaints about what’s out there.

      • DeezNizzuhh

        This is what I believe people can’t come to grips with. Music is really good now, now that the toll boths have been taken down. But it was the toll boths, that allowed musicans to do it for a living.

        • jw

          It was the toll booths that allowed **SOME** folks to do it for a living.

          The thing is, for every band that was making it in 1999, there are dozens of artists who exist now & feel entitled to that success. They think the only thing standing between them & an in-ground swimming pool is piracy, Pandora, & streaming. But it just doesn’t work like that. Most bands who aren’t successful now wouldn’t have been successful then, either because they’re just not good enough, or because there are too many great bands to go around, or they’re just not marketable enough. Let’s not forget, if you weren’t some kind of Creed knock-off or a pop punk boy band or a girl with a nice body or a rap act repurposing choruses from the ’70s or a numetal/rapcore band, you weren’t getting signed. The only good records from 1999 were made by the established alternative & grunge bands who already had several records under their belts.

          And there’s probably 20 great records from 1999, imo. But now 50 or 60 great records come out every year, maybe more. And most of those acts wouldn’t exist in 1999. It’s not like, “oh, well they would be selling records & making real money.” It’s more like no label would give them the time of day, & there would be no blogs, no social media, no pitchfork, no festivals to play, no CD Baby to distribute your music, no Amazon to sell it, no cell phone GPS for touring… they would be toiling away in their home town, paying exorbitant amounts to record at a local studio, & they’d be underwriting their own tours, losing money until they finally just gave up.

          And even if you did get signed, there’s no guarantee you’d see any money. Most of those bands just racked up label debt, got dropped, & called it quits. Sure, they had tour support, but that only lasts for so long.

          But for every past-his-prime artist like Rhett Miller complaining about how he can’t make a living anymore, there are plenty of new, relevant acts who are taking advantage of everything the internet offers, & they’re selling 500-2000 tickets a night & they’re keeping the overhead low & making a decent living off of it. Maybe they don’t all have in-ground swimming pools, but not everyone can be the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

        • Anonymous

          I agree, Katy Perry is great! I truly love her! Same with Ke$ha, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé.

          But all the time?

          Do you remember when the industry could afford to experiment, develop and produce extremely weird and expensive ART, as well?

          You know, the legendary stuff? Music we’ll hear in 100 years from now?

          Same thing with literature and movies: What you get are 50 shades of gray Spidermen all over the place.

          And for the same reason: You get what you pay for…

          • jw

            All sorts of timeless art is being made right now. Probably more than ever. It might not be heard 100 years from now because none of it has a million dollar marketing budget, but that doesn’t suggest anything about the quality of the music.

          • GGG

            How many records do you buy a year without hearing more than 2 songs first? How many do you buy overall?

    • GGG

      You have to be the laziest mother fucker and/or have a very narrow music mind if you think there’s not a lot of great music out nowadays.

      • JAIO

        and you must be an old m-f LOL if you think there’s no good music out there. you’re the lazy one for not looking

      • Casey

        I don’t know if I would say someone is lazy because they can’t find music they like. There is a huge piece of the industry that is hidden away behind the big barrier of mainstream music. If you don’t like mainstream music, it can be incredibly hard to find the music you want.

        Some of the most recent music I found that I enjoyed enough to buy, was only found by searching over 100 pages of artists on reverbnation for a single market. Hours spent to uncover a few artists.

        • GGG

          Eh, I disagree. Between the countless artist radio options on various platforms that have/do exist, simple google searches, going to a blog or something, asking some friends, there’s really no reason someone shouldn’t be able to find what they’re looking for. Might not be instantaneous but it’s not hard, if you’re trying that is. I agree there’s a ton of music hidden behind Top 40, but that’s why I said lazy, though I will concede and add just don’t know any better.

        • jw

          No one needs to subject themselves to all of the crap on Reverb Nation. There are much more efficient ways of finding music.

          Late night shows like Conan & Letterman all post their videos online. NPR previews new releases every sunday night. Apps like Spotify have recommendation engines. Custom Pandora stations. Sites like Spin & Rolling Stone post “must hear artists” every month. Companies like Taco Bell & car companies are sponsoring music discovery. There are websites that give you the artists behind the music in every commercial on TV. Shazaam can give you the name of any artist you hear on the radio or in a store. Hell, just start with the acts playing Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza or Coachella.

          None of this existed in 1999. You couldn’t type in a search in an issue of Rolling Stone. If you missed an artist playing on Letterman, you missed it & that was that. You might never learn who performed a song in a commercial. Now it’s all at your fingertips.

          If you can’t discover new music that you like in this day of age, you’re intentionally avoiding it.

          • Casey

            I use reverb because of the sheer amount of information available.

            None of those festivals have artists I am interested in. I have created dozens of Pandora stations with the sole purpose of discovering music and spent countless hours using Spotify’s music recommendation features (radio, related artists, etc.) At the end of the day, those services only go so far. They are limited by what is in their catalog. And Spotify in particular lacks enough information on the extreme lesser-known acts to ever recommend them. I monitor a variety of weekly charts and blogs, use, have tried nearly every music discovery service ever created, etc. No single service or source ever meets my apparently too-high expectations.

          • jw

            This brings up a very interesting point. Would you say that your expectations are learned, based on the increasing amount of information available on obscure bands?

            Based on your apparent expectations, theres no way you could’ve found music to listen to in 1999.

            If it’s the case that, as music discovery improves, your expectations narrow accordingly, then it’s a no-win scenario.

          • GGG

            Don’t mean to answer for Casey, but I love talking music/culture philosophy so based on lots of conversations I’ve had with people, I think you’re right about the narrowing of taste. I go through it in waves, based on genre, so I can relate to an extent. You hear so much music so you start to look for that holy grail. Like, you like what that band is doing sorta, and like what that other band is doing sorta, so there MUST be some band that puts them together. So you put this expectation of enjoyability that’s never really reached, or it is rarely.

            Even for me, there’s honestly maybe 5 records a year that I absolutely love and know I’ll listen to for the rest of my life. Then there’s anywhere from 10-30 that I thoroughly enjoy but will either cherry pick songs or just kinda forget about it, then countless I just completely don’t give a shit about. So then it becomes the sort of catch-22; Without the ability to easily find all those records I wouldn’t have even knew they existed, let alone heard them. But without so much music I’d probably spend more time with certain ones and become a bigger fan.

          • jw

            I’m sort of the opposite… the more music becomes available, & the easier discovery becomes, the more my taste expands.

            At the end of the year I end up with a mix of 100-150 different artists with at least 1 song I really enjoyed, & I always come back to those mixes. It’s actually kind of mind blowing to go back & look at these mixes & think that so much awesome music came out in one year.

            And then there’s generally 50 or so records that I really spend time with. And then of that, 10-20 that make it into my regular rotation, year after year, & that I usually end up getting on vinyl.

          • GGG

            Yea, it’s not that my taste doesn’t expand overall, it certainly has. I meant that I’ll go through a couple months of listening to electro pop, then a couple months of listening to southern rock, then hip-hop, etc with whatever genre. But within those genres I sometimes tend to have this expectation while I’m listening to new artists, and especially when you compare them to what you already love, it’s a little harder for me to fall in love with some new act.

  6. just another idiot online

    wow … just wow.

    anyone here in for the long haul?

    Not too far down the road from today, you will walk into your car, your home, your office and speak to “the cloud” that you would like to hear “X” music. It will play, and you never have to “own” a digital version, or a physical version. You will wear a lapel communication device similar to some of the wearable tech coming out right now, and it will serve as your connection to all things “cloud.”

    How we as musicians and music industry entrepreneurs monetize content is constantly in flux. I’m just happy I’ve made a decent living wage over the past couple of decades with music as my product. As things change, I learn to adapt to the changes before me. This isn’t any different. Some will “lose,” some will “win.” #quityourbitchinganddoyourhomework

    • Hue Manity

      My future looks a little different.

      I see a world where file and streaming compression are abandoned because we now have 5-10 terabytes of memory on our handheld devices. Our Internet pipes will be so fast that huge files could be delivered instantly. Moore’s law tells us we’ll be there one day (assuming hue manity survives).

      If I’m right, then its streaming that would become obsolete.

      • jw

        If huge files can be delivered instantly, why on earth would you need to store them locally?

        Like wallow-T mentioned above, local storage is trending down, & cloud services are trending up.

        You don’t seem to have a firm grasp on the technological landscape, all of your ideas seem to be stemming from the emotional attachment you have to your digital music collection.

        • There is something

          I see two issues with streaming for now:
          – for various reasons, a great part of the music I listen to is not available on Spotify
          – you have no guarantee that your streaming service is here forever

          So as long as 100% of all the music sold in the world is available on several streaming services (so you can switch if one goes down), mp3 and other downloads formats will be very relevant to me.

          • Anonymous

            “a great part of the music I listen to is not available on Spotify”

            No, windowing turned Spotify into a museum, and there’s nothing Ek can do about it.

            Here’s a funny tweet from the museum:

            “Like #Grandparents, these soulful tunes will never go out of style: [Link to Spotify]” 🙂

            Twitter, today.

          • jw

            Bro, look at the chart. The data does not agree with your comments.


          • GGG

            Welcome to the world of Anonymous, where a few huge artists withholding from Spotify means all artist are withholding. Even though half the ones he’ll bring up are on by now, and have been for some time. I’m convinced he’s never actually opened up Spotify.

          • Anonymous

            “There is something” complained that “a great part of the music I listen to is not available on Spotify”.

            I told him why.

          • GGG

            You’re assuming the music he listens to is new. Most likely it’s a older artists whose music most people have bought in multiple formats over the last 20-60 years anyway. I mean, hell, I wasn’t born until the 80s and even I own 2 or 3 copies of every Beatles album.

            Again, a good 98% of new artists I look up I find on Spotify. Still convinced you’ve never opened up the thing. Also, what’s you’re reasoning that we don’t we see more major artists taking their stuff off, like Thom Yorke? Even Sam Smith only withheld for a little bit.

          • There is something...

            You couldn’t be more fare from the truth, and that alone shows you don’t have a clue about music business and markets.

            The music I can’t find on Spotify mostly comes from countries where Spotify doesn’t exist or isn’t popular yet. So many labels and musicians don’t bother with that kind of streaming service… yet. Windowing, unless you’re a very big act, only hurts atists imho: if I need to check an artist that I don’t know and can’t find it on Spotify or Youtube, I just jump to the next one and bye bye, missed opportunity to get noticed.

          • Anonymous

            “Windowing, unless you’re a very big act, only hurts atists imho”

            Huh? 🙂 Windowing never hurt anybody. On the contrary!

            Here’s how it works — and why it’s the perfect release strategy today:

            1) Most songs are sold during release week — unless you’re The Beatles.

            2) Streaming revenue from one week simply can’t be detected — not even if you’re a major act — so you can’t lose anything.

            3) Windowing is the perfect cure against cannibalization. Cannibalization ratios differ from act to act, but windowing would be the right approach even if the ratio were 1:139! Which nobody would argue. A more realistic estimate is 1:20, which makes windowing an outstanding business model.

            So yes, windowing is indeed the perfect release strategy today — but it’s dead when Google launches YouTube Music Key, at least for major label acts.

            And that’s why YouTube Music Key will be the main topic on this and other blogs in the near future.

            YouTube Music Key is Music Industry 3.0, and it will kill Spotify, iTunes and the major labels.

            You can discuss it now or you can wait till it hits you…

          • GGG

            Again, you’re ignoring a HUGE amount of artists, because you don’t know any better.

          • GGG

            EDIT: The post above is responding to Anonymous, not There Is Something

          • Anonymous

            “you’re ignoring a HUGE amount of artists”

            No, I don’t.

            You agree that major artists benefit from windowing — but you actually think it hurts minor acts, who literally wouldn’t make one single dollar from streaming during release week?

            That doesn’t make sense. When an artists doesn’t make a single dollar during release, s/he doesn’t have anything to lose.

            On the contrary: Everybody benefits from windowing:

            A new artist who sells 5 downloads in return for 100 potential streams will only gain a few dollars from windowing, while the major artist who sells 5m downloads instead of 100m streams gets rich.

            But they all have something to gain.

          • GGG

            Because not everything is about the dollar. I’d readily forfeit X dollars for X ears for new acts. It’s no different then paying out the ass for marketing or PR. The beauty is nowadays you can combine them and actually monetize curiosity. You won’t make any money if you don’t have fans.

          • Anonymous

            “Because not everything is about the dollar”

            Ultimately, it is.

            This is not the 1980s. Exposure is available to everybody today, which means it’s worthless by itself until you find a way to monetize it.

            And you get far more monetizable exposure from short, non-cannibalizing appetizers — preferably videos — embedded on popular platforms like Twitter and Facebook than from obscure Spotify tracks.

            Especially if you combine the appetizers with links to download stores.

          • jw

            Streaming is a bulk business. The ultimate goal of streaming isn’t to just migrate music purchasers to a new model, it’s to monetize the music listening of the average music fan who doesn’t buy music. (This is most people.) That’s why even smaller streaming outfits like Rdio say they’re shooting for 30m subscriptions. This is why everyone says we’re still in the infancy of the format.

            So it’s easy to say, “Well, the early adopters are the biggest music fans, so it makes sense to window & force those fans to buy digital downloads.” But we see it every week, people need these new releases less & less because they have access to so much else. By & large, people will either head to YouTube as an alternative (which pays even less than Spotify), they’ll pirate it (which pays nothing), or they’ll just skip it entirely. The logic that, “Well, if it’s not on Spotify, then obviously people will just pay for it,” doesn’t follow in most cases.

            And if your argument is that if 19 people do that, but 1 buys it, you’re net positive… but there’s no way to actually gauge the “cannibalization ratio.” (We all know that you’re talking completely out of your ass when you say those types of things.) Furthermore, supposing someone actually does end up on iTunes, there’s probably going to grab the single & wait for the rest to show up on Spotify. What’s more, first week streaming is… kind of irrelevant. Here’s why. You’re treating fans as disposable. As if dozens can be just tossed aside for the sake of one holy digital download. But now, more than ever, every fan counts. Very, very, very few artists have the luxury of acting this cavalier. And if you can pick up a fan who is going to stream the record 16 times over the course of six months, that’s the same payout as a single digital download (16 plays x 12 songs x $.005 per play = $.96), you’re getting the income, & that fan is very likely to come to a show or buy merch or pre-order the next record on vinyl or whatever. Maybe they join a fanclub for $100/year. But you’re fine with just tossing fans like that aside, as if you don’t need their money or interest.

            I think you need to take another look at what it means to be successful in the music industry these days. Your approach seems to be funneling as many people as possible towards a specific revenue stream at a specific time. But the modern industry is about leveraging every single ounce of interest that is out there for you & your artist, & maximizing the profitability across multiple revenue streams. Your dogmatic approach towards digital downloads does nothing to maximize overall profitability. And your cavalier attitude towards gaining & retaining fans is alarming, to say the least.

          • Anonymous

            “Especially if you combine the appetizers with links to download stores”

            …AND Twitter introduces buy buttons now!

            Imagine that: A short video trailer on top and a buy button below.

            Fast and easy, you only have to enter payment information once!

        • steveh

          “If huge files can be delivered instantly, why on earth would you need to store them locally?”

          The answer is that I would wish to have complete total control of my huge files and not be in the slightest way dependent on some nasty-as-fuck big data ultra-capitalist right wing GOP supporting mega-company like google or facebook.

  7. FarePlay

    Has anyone ever wondered why commenters like JW are all over these discussions about non-streaming sales and distribution channels?

    Could it be that part of the investor/IPO pitch for these unprofitable businesses is “get on board, we’ll be the only game in town” and then watch; we can charge whatever we want and get it. The entire lack of balance in their position is suspect as is the origin of the founders of Spotify.

        • FarePlay

          I don’t know who Sean Hannity is, but something about the Fox Networks is flashing before me. If that is correct, Fox Network tends to be fairly hardcore pro-business, so I doubt, other than pointing out their financial challenges, Fox would have anything negative to say about Mr. ek or Spotify.

          Now, I do believe Nancy Grace has an aversion to bald foreigners, but I wouldn’t let that bother you. And besides whoever this Hannity guy is, it is better than being called a racist. That did make me feel insulted, but I do know what a racist is, JW.

          • jw

            What I meant by that is that you’re like a conservative talk radio host. You distort reality in order to reinforce your presuppositions, or else dream up crazy conspiracies to explain away opposition. You never let facts or reason get in the way of a compelling, however ridiculous, narrative.

            Don’t you have your own talk radio show? Hasn’t the format ever struck you as… I dunno… insular? Self-aggrandizing? Indulgent?

          • FarePlay

            Interesting thought. But you’ve got that covered already. We’re just waiting for it to scale, so we can say we knew you when you were an arrogant, oh you know the rest.

  8. There is something...

    So only streaming hater should be allowed to comment ? And what about that “Anonymous” dude who always complain again and again about the same things ? And “Tune Hunter”, the king of nonsense ?

    • FarePlay

      What’s there to like about streaming, unless you’re a consumer who wants to get everything for free or an investor, principal or a lawyer?

      • There is something...

        The question is not if you like it or not… The vast majority of net users wants it. So either you find a way to deal with it or you just stay away from where people go…

      • GGG

        Since you care so much about artisans, I’m assuming all goods you buy are hand-crafted, hand-picked, etc?

  9. Guess.

    Why are we seeing only one graph? Why are we not being shown streaming right alongside it? Why is the 238% number being treated here as a side note?

    Fact is, streaming is not and will not eliminate our profit margin. Read it again. I work for a certain major label (care to guess which?) and have seen the full analytics for this. Not the one-sided clickbait this site always likes to share.