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As figures confirm 2014 was challenging for the record industry, will 2015 be better than “flat”?

By | Published on Monday 2 March 2015

Music World

Despite the ‘streaming music boom’ and the rather more modest ‘vinyl revival’ both providing some positive spin, few would deny that 2014 was another challenging year for the record industry, following that temporary moment of optimism when the global recorded music market saw the slightest bit of growth in 2012.

As the overview of key-market year-end figures in the CMU Trends Report last month showed, a common trend in multiple markets last year was download sales going into decline to the extent that booming streaming income couldn’t prevent an overall revenue drop. And that will likely be reflected in the global record industry figures for 2014, due to be published by the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry on 14 Apr.

The Japanese industry published its 2014 figures last week, with revenues down 4.6% overall. Which is better than in 2013, though the CD-dominated market still faces challenges, because CD sales are now very much in decline (down 6% last year), but the streaming sector there – while up 188% last year – is still way behind most other markets (accounting for 2.6% of total revenues).

The big global streaming brands are yet to launch in Japan, and the major labels (four of them in Japan) are divided on what strategy should be employed as the country’s music market finally goes digital. As discussed in the December edition of the CMU Trends Report, two majors favour letting the global players in, the other two still prefer backing local services. So, instability remains there, and as the second biggest recorded music market Japan has a big impact on global record industry figures.

The challenging year just gone meant that there was little surprise in the news last week that Universal Music saw its full-year revenues slip 6.7% last year (5.6% accounting for currency fluctuations). This despite Universal being behind some of the year’s biggest success stories: Sam Smith, the musical side of the ‘Frozen’ franchise and, outside North America, the Taylor Swift phenomenon.

But will 2015 provide some new glimmers of hope for the majors and the record industry at large? Well, “no” says one Sony Music source, who told the New York Post that revenues this year will be at best flat, with optimists pegging 2016 as the year the streaming boom will push things back into growth overall. But hey, keep peddling everybody.