Music industry sets new record in 2021: $15B, driven by streaming

In a fulfillment of a RAIN News projection, and in what RIAA CEO Mitch Glazier calls “one of the most incredible comeback stories in modern commercial history,” the U.S. record industry in 2021 surpassed its previous record of annual revenue.

Orange bars = CD sales. Green bars = streaming

The milestone is a profound validation of commercial music streaming.

In the RIAA’s reckoning, combined revenue from sales of music recordings reached $15-billion last year, surpassing the previous record of $14.6-billion in 1999. Streaming music represents the largest portion of 2021 revenue, and by far the biggest driver of the industry’s recovery.

The highlighted green bars represent subscription streaming revenue.

Paid streaming subscriptions jumped an eye-popping 23% year-over-year (2020-2021), from $6.9B to $8.5B. Ad-supported streaming, while a small business, grew even faster, leaping 47% to $1.7-billion.

SoundExchange distributions of non-subscription music royalties levied on streaming platforms delivered just under a billion dollars ($992.5-million). Those royalty calculations are set and regulated by the Copyright Royalty Board, a U.S. government entity.

On the physical side, vinyl records continued to gain popularity, delivering a year-over-year revenue gain of 61%, to just over a billion dollars. CD revenue was about half that.

RAIN’s projection, posted on January 3, predicted $15.2-billion for 2021, slightly higher than the final figure of $15.0-billion.

The RIAA published an interactive chart of revenue history. It is a valuable resource, and is located HERE.


Brad Hill