by Ed Christman
Streaming overtakes sales for the first time as the leading driver of revenue for the U.S. recorded music business.
It looks like happy days are here again: U.S. recorded music sales were up 11.4 percent in 2016. The industry brought in $7.65 billion in revenue, according to the RIAA, up from $6.87 million in 2015. Although the music business showed signs of a recovery at the half-year mark, the 2016 year-end results show more significant growth, led by streaming revenue.
This is the first time since 1998 that the U.S. industry has experienced a double digit increase in overall revenue. Back then, the industry enjoyed revenue of $13.7 billion.
Unsurprisingly, streaming is pulling the business back to health, as revenue grew 68.5 percent to $3.93 billion, up from $2.33 billion in 2015. In fact, streaming grew so much last year, that it now accounts for more revenue than downloads, CDs and vinyl combined. Together, these formats brought in $3.51 billion. Paid music subscriptions doubled in the U.S., according to the RIAA — up to 22.6 million, from 10.8 million in 2015.
Even with this robust growth, recorded music brings in just over half the $14.6 billion it generated at its 1999 peak.