Cop that, iTunes: streaming is officially making more moolah than digital downloads ever did

According to new data from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the annual income of streaming services has surpassed the peak annual revenue from digital music retail at the height of iTunes and downloadable ringtones.

Aside from streaming’s newfound dominance, which we’ve covered before, the data also shows an enormous rise in streaming revenue since 2012. It’s straight up exponential.

streaming graph spotify itunes

The era of digital music downloads have officially gone the way of the dodo, as more and more figures paint streaming as the kingly format of our age.

Here’s what Music Business Worldwide had to say in their report:

“The peak of download retail sales in the US market (inclusive of ringtones, music videos, ‘kiosk’ and other digital sales) came in 2012, when they topped $3bn at $3.02bn.

Streaming platforms generated significantly more than this ($3.93bn) in 2016, thanks to a 68% year-on-year rise in revenues.

It’s important to note that this $3.93bn figure includes $884m of payouts from SoundExchange, for streaming plays of records on ‘lean-back’ digital radio services such as Pandora and SiriusXM.

In addition, ad-funded streaming platforms such as YouTube, Vevo and Spotify’s free tier generated $469m in the US last year – resulting in total an on-demand streaming tally (ie. not including SoundExchange) of $2.95bn.

That’s actually bigger than the total revenues from albums and singles sales on the likes of iTunes in 2012 – the year of download’s apex – which jointly reached $2.83bn.

(That year’s total official ‘download’ figure of $3.02bn was boosted by $166.9m in ringtone sales, as well as other niche digital formats.)

It would take a brave analyst to forecast that subscription platforms alone won’t top this $2.83bn mark in 2017.”