updated 04:15 pm EDT, Tue March 27, 2012
RIAA shows streaming on the rise
New RIAA music data has shown streaming music starting to get mainstream acceptance in the US. Although the number of those paying for subscription music services like Rdio, Slacker, and Spotify in 2011 was small at 1.8 million users, it represented an 18.9 percent boost over the year before. Revenue was up by a smaller rate, at 13.5 percent, as the faster paid subscriber rate was partly offset by free or low-cost users signing up.
The increases in streaming volumes were higher than for individual downloadable singles, although not for downloads. RIAA trackers saw a 10.9 percent boost to 1.3 billion songs and a 13.3 hie in single revenue to just under $1.5 billion, but albums surged to 104.8 million downloads (up 22.1 percent) and almost $1.1 billion in revenue (up 25.1 percent).
CDs continued to partly mute digital success, although a drop of 4.8 points for shipments and 8.5 percent in revenue suggested that digital was now much more of a positive for major labels than it had been in years past. A "mobile" category that includes ringtones and other mobile-specific content was down over 38 percent in both copies and revenue, although most of this was likely shifting to smartphones that could simply access the same store as desktop users.
Spotify may have contributed a large part to streaming results, which have for years been relatively stable. It reached three million paid users worldwide at the start of this year as Americans began adopting the service in wider numbers. Digital sales as a whole have been credited to Adele's success with 21 on pay-to-own stores, and to a lesser extent some subscription services, as well interest in music from 'reality' TV and themed shows like Glee leading to paid listening.
Combined, the digital performance hurts RIAA assertions that piracy is still a major factor and needs laws that can block or censor sites, such as the recently frozen SOPA bill. Although download stores like iTunes are still the core of Internet music, streaming has long been seen as a supplement to catch both for very frequent listeners who can't justify buying many albums and as a cheap or free alternative to bootlegged tracks. [via CNET]