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Streaming, Vinyl Sales Carry Positive 2015 US Recording Industry Revenues

by Ryan Middleton   Mar 23, 2016 11:55 AM EDT

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The RIAA, the Recording Industry Association of America, has unveiled its 2015 year-end numbers and it reveals just how much change the music business is undergoing. The new numbers show some good news and bad news, with an increase in overall revenue for streaming and vinyl sales carrying the day.

Overall revenue for 2015 was up 0.9 percent to $7 billion. The good news is that streaming revenues grew 29 percent to 2.4 billion and more importantly, money from paid subscriptions grew 52 percent to 1.2 billion, compared to ad-supported streaming, which is only $385 billion.

Vinyl continues to surge, hitting its highest level since 1988 at $416 billion, up 32 percent from last year. Trying to underpin a base of revenue on vinyl sales could be dangerous if the trend fades as quickly as it came in vogue.

Royalties from synchronizations were up 7 percent to $203 million, though they are only 2.9 percent of the total revenue pie.

The bad news comes from sales and some from streaming if you really look at the numbers. Digital sales revenues fell 10 percent to 2.3 billion, which includes singes and albums, the total value of all digital sales with streaming was up 6 percent to $4.8 billion from $4.5 billion in 2014. With the increase in overall streaming revenue though, the per stream payouts have come down in total with total consumption exceeding the growth of payouts.

Unsurprisingly physical sales outside of vinyl is struggling. The total retail value of CDs, vinyl and DVDs of albums and singles fell 10.1 percent to $1.9 billion.

In an explanation about the totals, RIAA Chairman and CEO Cary Sherman blasted the "outdated" laws that protect the technology behemoths. They have been enriching themselves, despite not turning a profit, on the backs of content creators and labels, who are turning a profit, with low-paying, ad-supported models. The system needs fixing, but focusing all your attention on the streaming companies is an old and tired narrative.

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