The first half of 2013 has recorded music sales dropping by 4.6 percent year-on-year while at the same time, streaming is rapidly growing as the medium of choice, jumping about 24 percent over the same period. This is happening even as artists and record labels struggle to figure out how to utilize streaming to get paid. New Nielsen numbers are attesting to the power of digital.
The most-streamed song for 2013 is Baauer’s Harlem Shake, which has been streamed more than 438 million times – mostly through YouTube as a viral phenomenon of self-made videos using the song in this year’s hottest meme. The next-nearest streaming favorite is Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Thrift Shop at nearly 187 million streams followed by Psy’s Gangnam Style at 150.5 million streams. Most streaming is via YouTube, but music-specific stream sources like Spotify are gaining ground as music mediums of choice – though the viral power of YouTube is not likely to be disposed anytime soon as the king of stream.
Comparing by totals, so far this year the music industry has sold 210 million albums, or 2.1 billion tracks, while streaming has reached 51 billion tracks. Over 80 percent of those streams were via user-generated video, however, which rarely pays artist or label anything for use of the song.
Going back to album sales, physical CDs were down another 14.2 percent year-on-year to 78.2 million units as digital music sales continue to become the medium-of-choice, rising another 6.3 percent to 60.8 million units. Analysts predict that digital music will equal physical album sales by the end of the year, as they did last year, but will hold that position.
A revolution is taking place in music and the industry is struggling to keep up and capitalize on it.