The RIAA released its 2019 year-end revenue numbers for the U.S. recorded-music business, and for the fourth straight year it showed double-digit percent increases and a wealth of money coming in from paid streaming.
According to RIAA's report, the U.S. recorded music business generated $11.1 billion in revenue in 2019, a 13% year-over-year increase from the $9.8 billion it reached in 2018. That represents a faster rate of growth over 2018, when it increased 11.9% over the prior year.
That growth was driven largely by continued gains in streaming revenue, which grew 19.9% year-over-year to $8.8 billion from 2018's $7.4 billion, accounting for 79.5% of all revenue.
Within overall streaming revenues, paid subscriptions accounted for $6.8 billion, up 25% year-over-year and making up 61% of the overall revenue total. Limited-tier subscriptions — which includes services like Amazon Prime and Pandora Plus which do not provide full-catalog, unlimited on-demand access — accounted for $829 million of that total. Paid subscribers to on-demand services reached 60.4 million in 2019, up 29% over 2018’s 46.9 million, as subscriber growth and subscriber revenue continue to grow concurrently.
Meanwhile, ad-supported on-demand streaming also grew significantly, up 20% over 2018, yet it accounted for just $908 million in revenue. Digital and customized radio revenue was down 4% year-over-year to $1.16 billion, due to a 5% downturn in SoundExchange distributions ($908 million), while ad-supported streaming revenues remained flat at $251 million.
For the first time since 2006, digital download sales revenue dipped below the $1 billion mark, falling 18% year-over-year to $856 million from last year's $1.04 billion. Album downloads dropped 21% to $395 million while digital track sales fell 15% to $415 million, as the overall download sector totaled just 8% of all revenues for the year. Album downloads accounted for 3.6% of revenues, while digital track downloads accounted for 3.7% of revenues, and ringtones still brought in $21.4 million, good for 0.2% of revenues.
Physical revenue remained stable, dropping just 0.6% year-over-year to $1.15 billion. CD sales fell 12% to $615 million in 2019, with shipments dropping 10.5% to 46.5 million copies from the 52 million counted last year. But vinyl continued its return, ballooning a whopping 19% year-over-year to $504 million, the format's highest revenues in 32 years and its 14th straight year of growth. CDs made up 5.5% of overall revenues, while vinyl accounted for 4.5%; average list price of a CD dropped to $13.21 in 2019 from $13.43 in 2018, while vinyl averaged $26.05, a jump from $25.10 the year before.
Overall, digital accounted for 87.2% of revenues in 2019, physical made up 10.3% of revenues and synch royalties accounted for 2.5% of revenues.