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Music Streaming, Vinyl Up; Downloads Falter In 2015

Online music streaming accounted for the largest share of U.S. music-industry revenues for the first time in 2015, nudging ahead of downloads, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) reported.

The U.S. music industry posted a 0.9 percent gain in estimated retail-level dollar volume to $7.02 billion, with the gain attributable to 28.8 percent growth in streaming volume, to $2.41 billion. Streaming volume exceeded $2 billion for the first time.

Sales of digital downloads and physical media were down.

Streaming share: With the shifts, streaming accounted for 34.3 percent of retail-level dollar volume, a tad more than download’s 34 percent share and ahead of physical media’s 28.8 percent share. Combined streaming and download volume accounted for 70 percent of industry sales, up from 2014’s 67 percent.

The streaming category consists of revenues from subscription services (such as paid versions of Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, and the like); streaming radio services including Internet radio and SiriusXM; and non-subscription on-demand streaming services such as YouTube, Vevo, and ad-supported Spotify.

Streaming’s share of industry dollar volume grew from 2014’s 27 percent and 2010’s 7 percent.

In 2015, digital music-subscription revenues hit a new all-time high, generating more than $1 billion in revenues for the first time. The number of subscribers grew to more than 13 million by the end of December.

Here’s a closer look at other numbers:

Digital downloads: Estimated retail-level dollar volume fell 18 percent to $2.3 billion. The number of single-song downloads fell 14.9 percent to 1.02 billion, and the number of album downloads fell 7 percent to 1.09 million.

CD: Unit shipments fell 13.9 percent to 122.9 million, with retail dollar volume falling 17 percent to $1.52 billion.

Vinyl: Unit shipments of LPs and EPs grew 28.3 percent to 16.9 million, with retail volume rising 32.2 percent to $416.2 million, accounting for 5.9 percent of total industry volume.