The U.S. Recorded Music Industry Grew 27% During 2021’s First Half — As Vinyl Revenue Nearly Doubled

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U.S. recorded music industry revenues during the opening halves of 2019, 2020, and 2021. Photo Credit: RIAA

The U.S. recorded music industry grew 27 percent year over year during 2021’s opening half, generating $7.1 billion at retail value, according to a newly released mid-year report from the RIAA.

Per the 69-year-old organization’s just-published breakdown of the stateside music industry’s financial performance across Q1 and Q2 2021, domestic recorded-music revenue jumped from $5.6 billion at retail value in H1 2020 to the aforementioned $7.1 billion at retail value throughout H1 2021. At wholesale value, the figure increased from $3.7 billion to $4.6 billion year over year, with both the wholesale and retail totals having turned in only modest improvements between H1 2019 and the pandemic-impacted H1 2020.

Nevertheless, the same trends that enabled this continued growth amid the early months of the pandemic last year – namely streaming gains and bolstered vinyl sales – looked to pave the way for H1 2021’s double-digit revenue boost.

To be sure, streaming generated 26 percent more in H1 2021 than in H1 2020, at $5.9 billion – roughly 84 percent of the newer period’s total revenue, per the RIAA’s half-year report. Within the figure, paid streaming subscriptions, which still account for the lion’s share of Spotify’s revenue, brought $4.6 billion to the U.S. recorded music industry (up 26 percent YoY, like the broader streaming category).

And U.S. streaming-service subscribers (counting family accounts as one subscription apiece), for their part, hiked from 72.6 million to 82.1 million in H1 2021. For reference, Spotify’s Q2 2021 earnings report showed that about 48 million of the service’s 165 million subscribers were based in North America.

U.S. ad-supported streaming, on the other hand, “rebounded significantly” to $741 million in H1 2021 – up 54 percent YoY. Regarding the remainder of non-physical recorded music’s stateside performance between January and June of 2021, “digital and customized radio service revenues grew 3% to $585 million,” the RIAA relayed, whereas digital downloads expanded upon their years-running trend of declining revenue, with individual tracks having dipped 12 percent YoY and albums having dipped four percent from H1 2020, to a total of $319 million.

On the physical side, vinyl revenue – which other sources previously indicated is continuing to grow – nearly doubled from H1 2020, achieving a 94 percent YoY boost at $467.4 million (as well as 17 million units shipped). Domestic income attributable to CDs, $205.3 million (from 16.1 million units shipped), jumped 44 percent YoY, though H1 2020 ushered in a nearly 50 percent decline from H1 2019.

Finally, the RIAA reported a 6.4 percent uptick for sync licensing, which delivered an even $137 million during 2021’s initial half. About two weeks back, BMG reported that vinyl during H1 2021 overtook CDs in revenue for the first time in company history, while Warner Music Group’s latest quarterly earnings report also reflected the continued upswing of vinyl and streaming.