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Reading Nielsen's Year-End Sales Stats

January 09, 2014

Nielsen and Billboard recently released topline sales data on the U.S. music industry for 2013.  Unlike previous years, there is a strong – and we think well deserved – emphasis on streaming music listening.  Still, we believe there is more to the story, as the streaming component provides important context for a number of reasons.

We are still compiling RIAA year-end revenue numbers for 2013, but looking back at 2012 is illustrative of the importance streaming has already gained for the music industry.  A decade ago, the industry earned virtually all its revenue from physical sales (see RIAA’s music shipments and sales database – a comprehensive record of U.S. music sales statistics back to 1973).  But by 2012, the industry earned nearly 60% of its revenues from digital formats, with about 15% from streaming music, which includes subscription services, on demand streaming services, and Internet and satellite radio (illustrated in Figure 1 below). 
Perhaps better illustrating the contribution that streaming is already making to the industry’s health is the RIAA revenue data in Figure 2 (below).  In 2012, U.S. revenues from music streaming services exceeded $1 billion for the first time, and were up 59% versus the previous year.  Streaming has quickly become a meaningful contributor, and indications so far are that its role continued to grow in 2013.
Joshua P. Friedlander
Vice President, Strategic Data Analysis, RIAA


Figure 1


Figure 2