US Music – Sales fell 0.9% in 2012 as digital revenues topped $4bn

by Stuart Dredge

riaa-accessUS music industry body the RIAA has published some data on recorded music revenues in 2012, with the headline figure being a 0.9% drop in sales to $7.1bn.

Not the kind of decline seen over the last decade, but still troubling given the excitement this time last year about sales rising 0.2% in 2011. The $7.1bn is still above 2010′s low point of $7bn, but it’s not yet the sustained bounce-back that the industry was hoping for.

Bright spots? Digital music revenues rose 14% in the US in 2012 to top $4bn for the first time ever, with digital now accounting for 59% of the US recorded music market’s dollar value.

RIAA VP Joshua Friedlander explains that “access” models – free and subscription-based streaming services as well as digital radio services like Pandora and SiriusXM – accounted for 15% of total recorded music revenues in 2012, up from 9% in 2011.

That’s just over $1bn in total, with $462m coming from SoundExchange distributions and $571m from streaming/subscription services not covered by a statutory licence – up 58% and 59% respectively year-on-year.

By the end of 2012, 3.4m Americans were paying for on-demand music services. Meanwhile, digital download revenues rose 8.6% in 2012 to $2.9bn, with albums accounting for $1.2bn of that – and 35% of all album sales by volume.

“The growth of access models show that formats where fans can listen from vast libraries rather than making individual purchases are gaining traction and making a significant contribution to the industry today,” writes Friedlander.

Although with speculation already swirling about music download sales falling in the first three months of 2012, attention is already turning to whether access models can make up for any decline on that front as well as the ongoing fall of physical music sales in 2013.

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