Breaking: Total Music Streams DOUBLED In 2015

Source: Nielsen Music.

The music industry has been undergoing a significant shift over the past few years, with the rise of streaming services and the decline of traditional music sales. Nielsen Music, a leading market research firm, recently released some data that sheds light on just how much this shift is impacting the industry.

According to Nielsen, song downloads in the United States fell by 12.5% in 2015, and by a whopping 23.4% since 2013. Meanwhile, streaming has exploded in popularity, with the total number of streams doubling in just one year. Americans streamed a total of 317.2 billion tracks in 2015, up from 164.5 billion in 2014.

Leading the pack of streaming services are some familiar names: YouTube, Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, and Google Play Music. However, it’s worth noting that these figures don’t include non-interactive radio streams like Pandora.

Perhaps the most significant trend in streaming is the rise of ad-supported music. While most streaming is free, with services like YouTube and Spotify offering ad-supported options, this model is still a relatively small part of the overall music industry. In fact, vinyl sales still outpace ad-supported streaming, with total LP sales growing by nearly 30% in 2015 to 11.9 million units. CDs, on the other hand, continue to decline in popularity.

It’s worth noting that these figures only tell part of the story. For example, they don’t take into account the growing popularity of concerts and live events, which are becoming an increasingly important part of the music industry. Likewise, they don’t account for the impact of social media on music sales and marketing.

Despite these limitations, Nielsen’s data is a clear sign that streaming is reshaping the music industry in a major way. For example, the decline of song downloads has been particularly pronounced in recent years. This is largely due to the convenience and affordability of streaming services, which offer users access to huge libraries of music without the need to purchase individual tracks or albums.

At the same time, streaming services have also had a major impact on how music is marketed and promoted. For example, platforms like Spotify and Pandora use algorithms to recommend new songs and artists to users, which has helped to boost the popularity of lesser-known acts.

Overall, the rise of streaming has been a mixed blessing for the music industry. While it has made music more accessible to a wider audience, it has also disrupted traditional revenue models and created new challenges for artists and labels. For example, while streaming services pay royalties to artists, these payments are often quite small, and it can be difficult for smaller artists to make a living solely from streaming revenue.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that streaming is here to stay, and the music industry will need to adapt to this new reality if it wants to continue to thrive. Whether this means embracing new revenue models or finding new ways to connect with fans, one thing is clear: the music industry will need to keep evolving if it wants to keep pace with the changing habits of music consumers.

21 Responses

  1. GGG

    How much money did it generate for artists/labels/songwriters?

  2. Remi Swierczek

    …and the revenues of music industry have blinked up or down within 5%!

    Time to convert STREAMING and RADIO to $100B discovery moment monetization music store.

    No need for subscriptions or advertising around free – those methods will bring at the most $25B by 2025.

    1999 = today $66B – conclusion: UMG induced SUICIDE continues with CONTRACTION of obvious to an IDIOT $200B of music goodwill to $20B STREAMING SWAMP!

      • Remi Swierczek

        Hey Anonymous, Before calling names bring valid (I mean VALID) arguments against my solution.
        You must be one of those busy bodies at UMG music suicide enterprise!

    • Ron

      There’s no chance that people will pay to identify a song, Remi.

      Even if everyone was somehow stupid enough to make this the new basis for monetizing music- there would be 10,000 pirate workarounds for it in the first day of it going live.

      We all love your effort and enthusiasm Remi, but this is as stupid an idea as deciding to sell downloads for 10 times more to increase music revenues by ten times.

      • Remi Swierczek

        You need around 20 million dollars a year to be professional music PIMP like Google, Shazam or Soundhound!
        It takes money to have freshly updated data base of someones goods and and search thru it on demand.
        Trillions of music IDs involving storage and processing of someone’s property done for FREE at the request of FREELOADER will not deliver dollars to music industry. They vent all the life blood out of the music.

        Enjoy good tunes for free! You want to extinguish curiosity or better yet, listen to it again at any time or any place? Pay for addition to the play list!

  3. John Simson

    Interesting that Pandora’s streams weren’t counted. Pandora streamed well over 300 Billion tracks by themselves which would more than double the number provided above.

    • FarePlay

      What does it really matter, if over 90% of Pandora’s streams are for free subscribers? Unless people are paying you do you really have a business? Anyone can give anything away for free.

      When I look at these numbers they all represent billions of small cuts on the backs of creators.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      More numbers are coming out, but keep in mind this is y/o/y, meaning Pandora wasn’t in the on-demand dataset last year or previous years either.

  4. FarePlay

    The first thing I thought when I read that Spotify was going to start streaming the Beatles? Would it put them out of business… faster. Freemium not only hurt the music business, it has created an endless, cascading money drain for the uTorrent duo. Pump and dump, baby. That’s the American way.

    On a more positive note. Physical product sales are far from dead, so can we amend the hype. “Streaming is the future, FOR SOME.

    “The compact disc – launched in 1982 – enjoyed its best year in a decade, declining just 3.7% and generating sales of £468m.



    Compact discs are proving much more resilient than music downloads, the format which was tipped to replace them and which is now clearly well off its 2013 peak, declining in value 13% to less than £300m in 2015.

    According to further BPI data, UK CD album sales stood at 53.6 million units in 2015, down just 3.9% on 2014 – and still accounting for 66% of all albums purchased in the UK.

    And vinyl had another cracking year, up 64% from 1.3m units in 2014 to 2.1m copies.

    Said ERA’s CEO Kim Bayley, “It is clearly way too soon to write off the CD or other disc-based formats. Hopefully we have now all learned the lesson of the vinyl LP that older formats can happily co-exist with newer ways of enjoying entertainment.”

    Music Business Worldwide.

    • Zac Shaw

      Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

      “The compact disc – launched in 1982 – enjoyed its best year in a decade, declining just 3.7%”

      This is your good news? This is what we should be celebrating? Instead of more music being created and listened to than in all of human history?

      Copyright stagnated as a model for bringing value around music when the labels and other intermediaries got too greedy. Lawsuit after class action lawsuit was settled for their price-fixing, they ignore digital technology, and their industry collapsed. Artists were screwed most of the time anyway.

      The new model for bringing value around music is not only concerned with bringing entertainment dollars. The value of music has always been beyond $ but we all know you need $ to make it. Recording and marketing costs plummet, so the $ needed to make music is exponentially less than it used to be. Give the tools of creation to anybody with a computer. Of course that’s going to devalue music as a corporate entertainment product. What we gain as a society is that now music is not just measured in units sold, but how it affects people. And they reciprocate the value with their attention (worth $ in advertising) and patronage. Ask any musician under 30 who bought a house last year on their earnings. There are fewer of them, but they’re not gone. And that’s fine, because what took the place of the 25-50% of professional musicians that can no longer rely on copyright for creating value around music is a vibrant culture of music creation and sharing. This is the very purpose of copyright and people like you give musicians a band name by complaining all the time that what’s best for society steals money from your pocket.

      You are desperately grasping at the last dying hair on the severed head of the music industry.

      When will the curtains of cognitive dissonance part to reveal you were wrong 5 years ago, and every year that goes by, you only become more wrong? Let it go and join us in this exciting new world where the value of music is not measured in record label revenues, but in the value to the fan. We are having so much funI You are clearly not having as much fun as us if you have to hang out in the Digital Music News comments section all the time with Remi.

      • FarePlay

        ” And that’s fine, because what took the place of the 25-50% of professional musicians that can no longer rely on copyright for creating value around music is a vibrant culture of music creation and sharing.”

        By all means, let’s celebrate mediocrity. You play, Zac?

        • FarePlay

          And isn’t it wonderful Zac that the execs from Spotify and Pandora can buy Tesla’s and Mansions, while you dance around the maypole. Dude, wake up.

  5. Rick Shaw

    This is a good thing, right? I mean, while it didn’t generate a lot of money for artists/labels/songwriters, it did give them exposure.

    • Jane

      Exposure? That’s a croc. This exposure myth is a load of crap. Also, if you’re not going to pay the songwriter a decent amount from streaming, then the industry will collapse.

  6. hey

    Streams double, while revenue from consumers goes down. Great business model.

  7. FarePlay

    Paul, Nielsen ‘Music’ combined audio and video, they included YouTube which is awash with unlicensed content.

  8. FarePlay

    What we really need to see:

    Paid streams / ad-supported streams / YouTube Videos broken out.