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US record industry revenues up to $8.72 billion thanks to all your (mainly premium) streams

By | Published on Friday 23 March 2018


The US record industry enjoyed another year of double-digit growth in 2017, new figures from the Recording Industry Association Of America confirmed yesterday. Though the boom could be booming so much more if it wasn’t for the boom-hindering value gap. Boo to the boom-hindering value gap and its boo-inducing boom-bashing of the otherwise booming boom, say I. Well, says the R-I-AA. Sort of.

All this continued growth is all the result of streaming, of course. Not only is the US now well and truly a digital market, it is well and truly a streaming market. Overall consumer spending on recorded music in 2017 was up 16.5% to $8.72 billion. The streaming market, meanwhile, was up 43% and accounted for $5.66 billion of that overall consumer spending, which is nearly two-thirds of American record industry revenues.

Of the streaming monies, $4.1 billion came from premium on-demand streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, with the balance coming from free on-demand streaming platforms and personalised radio set-ups like Pandora and iHeartRadio.

YouTube monies are all included in the free streaming income bracket. And, of course – despite Lyor Cohen’s best efforts and the new deal with Universal – the wider record industry remains critical of safe harbour dwelling platforms like the Google video site, which pay much lower royalties across the board than the paid-for streaming services.

The music community wants the copyright safe harbour exploited by YouTube reformed, hence the customary “the boom’s cool, but a more booming boom would be cooler” aside from RIAA boss Cary Sherman alongside yesterday’s stat brags.

“Growth is of course welcome, for many reasons, but especially because it will result in more investment in artists and music”, he wrote on Medium. “However, we continue to operate in a distorted marketplace, replete with indefensible gaps in core rights, inhibiting investment in music and depriving recording artists and songwriters of the royalties they deserve”.

Although for the US record industry there are other copyright issues, like AM/FM radio continuing to pay no royalties at all to artists and labels, the ‘value gap’ campaign for safe harbour reform being pursued globally is also a priority for the RIAA.

Sherman continued: “The playing field remains unfairly tilted at the expense of creators and digital music services, resulting in a ‘value gap’, the gulf between the amount of music being consumed and the compensation that platforms return to music creators for exploiting the music. The economic consequences are real and increasingly documented by leading academics”.

So to conclude: “woo” for the boom, “phew” for the continued growth, but “boo” for the boom not being a more booming boom. Oh yeah, and fuck YouTube. Obviously.