Figures show Streaming and technology is actually destroying music sales and revenue for artists

Posted 29.03.2019 09:03 Updated 29.03.2019 10:13



Music Revenue

FIRST of all, this isn’t another “Rock is dead” article, because it isn’t. The rock and metal genres are very much alive and to a certain extent, prospering. It’s also important to note that we’re not just talking about these specific genres. These figures apply to ALL genres of music in the UK, US, and most parts of Europe.

Let’s also point out that we are not expecting to see heavy rock and metal bands topping the charts either. Rock and Metal has always been an underground movement, and it always will be. Sure, we’ll have spikes of “popularity” and will no doubt see Nirvana tops being sold in high street stores being worn by people who have no idea who the hell Nirvana are, or why Courtney Love killed Kurt Cobain (C’mon, she totally did).

These figures don’t just represent people not caring about music, they represent a social disconnect between reality and technology. They represent people's dissonance for wanting to discover new culture and new art.

The graph displayed represents google search data for new music over the past 15 years. 100 being its peak popularity, and 0 being its lowest. As you can see, coming out of the nu metal, post hardore era of the late ‘90s early ‘00s, the UK and US enjoyed a surge of people desperate to find new music, discover new bands, and seek out rock and metal music, and music overall.

We see a natural decline from here (2004), not only in people looking for new music, but we also see a huge decline in music sales and revenue kicking in at the end of 2008. You can easily argue this was due to the lead up to the 2008 global financial crisis where many companies and people suffered huge financial losses, so obviously, this will naturally have a huge impact on disposable income for entertainment. However, we saw economic recovery, but not in the music industry, why is that?

(Decline in music sales from 2008 // Source:

Well, it just so happens, around 2008, a certain streaming service created one of the biggest tech booms we’ve ever seen since the dot com explosion in the ‘90s.

Spotify started to take off in 2008/2009, and you can see a direct correlation between the the decline in revenue generated by the music industry in 2009, and the rise of the now popular music streaming service.

(Rise of Spotify from 2008 // Source: Google Trend Data)

In the USA alone, music sales generated over $950m dollars in sales in just one year, in 2008. The following year this had dropped to $720m, and continued to drop every year at an alarming rate. In 2017, mobile music revenue had dropped to just $34m, whilst streaming services like Spotify are now at an all time high. Spotify is now worth more than $33 BILLION dollars. Yet music revenue generated by music sales has plummeted.

In 2018, subscription streaming services in the UK alone accounted for £829.1m of the entire £1.33bn generate by the UK music industry. Spotify, and other streaming services pay such insignificant amounts of revenue to the artists it’s killing the music industry. Only a very small portion of revenue generated by streaming services actually gets passed down to the artist. If you bought an album, you can generate anywhere from between 5 to 12 dollars for an artists, whereas streaming it on a streaming platform will generate close to nothing for the artist. Of course, even when you buy an album, a large majority of the profits go to the record label, PR, studio time etc, however, the artist would still receive an much larger portion of the profits from a physical sale as opposed to their work being streamed.

(Direct correlation between music sales decline and increase in spotify popularity.)

The rise of streaming services, YouTube and other platforms mean that artists have to give their music away for free in the hope of it being heard by potential fans. But the issue is that people don't search for music anymore, they just assume the best records will magically appear on their phone with a quick notification.

There is absolutely no incentive for most people to part with their cash and help fund artists directly or through their record label. People no longer search for music, they have lost interest in a very crucial aspect of demand when it comes to the music industry.

Spotify and other streaming services are KILLING music. It’s no coincidence that music sales started to drastically decline at the very same time streaming services started to skyrocket in popularity. Many people argue that streaming helps artists “get their music out there”. Well, not really. There are now so many artists and bands that can freely upload music to streaming services that decent music just gets lost in the never ending ethos of platforms like spotify. Also, what's the point in building a new audience if you can’t generate the revenue needed to go on tour to play to this audience?

We are also in a constant battle to try not to support these platforms but artists don't have much choice anymore. The only way we could really change things is if artists stopped using these services and went back to issuing promos for sites and magazines to use.

If you want to check these figures and correlations for yourself you’ll find links below.
Music Revenue // Statista
Streaming Revenue
Spotify Trend