In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic and its far-reaching economic impact, the U.S. recorded music industry experienced a 9.2 percent year-over-year revenue uptick in 2020, according to the RIAA.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) revealed this and other telling stats about the domestic recorded music industry in its recently released yearend report. Recorded-music revenue jumped 9.2 percent from 2019, once again, totaling $8 billion at wholesale and an estimated $12.2 billion at retail value. Wholesale and retail came in at $6.5 billion and $9.7 billion, respectively, in 2018, as well as $7.4 billion and $11.1 billion in 2019.
A noteworthy 83 percent of U.S. recorded music industry revenues derived from streaming, per the yearend breakdown, against nine percent from physical sales, six percent from digital downloads, and two percent from sync. Download-wise, albums and singles performed roughly the same, at $319.5 million and $312.8 million in 2020 revenue, respectively. That said, income from singles fell some 23 percent year over year.
Streaming, for its part, generated $10.1 billion for the stateside music industry in 2020, up from $8.9 billion in 2019. The lion’s share of the sum (and 64 percent of the estimated retail revenue) is attributable to paid subscriptions, specifically including $7 billion from “full service paid subscriptions,” which grew 14.6 percent year over year, and $724 million from “limited tier paid subscriptions,” which hiked 13.4 percent.
Also worth highlighting is that paid subscriptions turned in their “biggest ever increase in a single year” during 2020, with a yearend average of 75.5 million premium users (excluding limited-tier subscriptions and counting family plans as one subscription apiece). In 2016, there were an average of just 22.7 million premium subscribers in the United States.
Ad-based streaming revenue increased by 16.8 percent from 2019, to $1.2 billion, though the previous three years had delivered approximately 30 percent growth. (Spotify, SiriusXM, and others reported advert-income declines after the pandemic’s onset, but the totals have since rebounded.) Plus, recorded music industry revenue from downloads dipped 18 percent compared to 2019, to $674.4 million.
Nevertheless, physical revenue, at $1.14 billion, nearly matched the 2019 total, even with the live-event shutdown and the years-running decline for CDs. Vinyl, which in 2020 outsold CDs for the first time since 1986, was the chief contributor to physical’s solid performance, having generated 28.7 percent more revenue, a total of $626 million, than in 2019. Now, the surging format has extended its domestic growth streak to 15 consecutive years.
Lastly, vinyl’s share of overall stateside recorded music industry revenue quietly surpassed five percent in 2020. Interestingly, the German music industry has also enjoyed considerable vinyl growth in recent years, and in 2019, the format accounted for about five percent of the nation’s own recorded music revenue.