Recorded music revenue hit record high in 2021
According to the 2021 Year-End Music Industry Revenue Report by the Recording Industry Association of America, recorded music revenue reached an all-time high in 2021. In the United States alone, revenue rose 23% to $15 billion last year. On the face of it, this exceeds the record high of $14.6 billion set in 1999 (although it should be noted that when adjusted for inflation, the 2021 figures remain 37% below this value) .
It’s no surprise that paid music subscription services and streaming (which for the first year in RIAA history includes American TikTok music) still account for the vast majority of how people consume music, with 83% of music sales represented by streaming. . However, while streaming statistics remained broadly at a similar level compared to other years, paid subscriptions to streaming services accounted for “by far the largest share of revenue”, according to the RIAA, also increasing by 23% for reach $9.5 billion in 2021.
For the first time since 1996, CDs and vinyl records saw revenue growth in the same year, with the vinyl sales resurgence continuing into its 15th year and growing 61% to $1 billion a year last. The last time sales exceeded this number was in 1986. Although CD sales fell in 2020 due to the closure of physical music stores during the pandemic, CD revenues increased by 21% to reach $584 million in 2021, marking the first year over-year increase in CD revenue since 2004.
The only major category whose sales declined in 2021 was digitally downloaded music, down 12% to $587 million. Following the death of platforms like iTunes, this fall is hardly a surprise. The RIAA found that downloads accounted for just 4% of music revenue, down considerably from its peak of 43% in 2012.
You can read the RIAA’s full 2021 year-end report here.