As the digital revolution took hold at the turn of the millennium, the music industry went into a financial nose dive, fuelled by the global prevalence of online piracy, and since 1999 music industry revenues have steadily decreased. However, according to the New York Times, in 2012, the industry saw growth of 0.3%, raking in a total of $16.5 billion in revenue. Although this is almost half the sort of global revenue the industry was used to ($36 billion) back in the 1990s before online piracy’s growth, the growth is being seen as a sign that the last few years’ growth in digital streaming services, such as Spotify, and the crack down on file-sharing sites such as Megaupload and other piracy platforms such as Bit Torrent have really paid off for the global music industry.
The introduction of Spotify in its homeland of Sweden had already seen a 25% drop in music piracy since 2009. So the real tipping point for online music – as pointed out by Spin magazine – has been when it’s finally becoming easier to get music through legal means, than by illegal means. Even YouTube has adverts now.
“Why scour around on shady Russian MP3 sites for the Cloud Nothings album, when you can easily find it on Spotify or listen to most of the tracks on YouTube for free?” [source]
Although they clearly take a hefty bite out of piracy’s popularity and omnipresence, the jury is still out as to whether or not music streaming services are justifiably making enough money for the musicians, or if they’re simply the lesser of two evils. “It’s clear that 2012 saw the global recording industry moving onto the road to recovery,” said Frances Moore, chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, who released the promising revenues report. “There’s a palpable buzz in the air that I haven’t felt for a long time.”
Furthermore, Spin has also previously reported that 2012 saw more units sold in the US than ever before. If one counts all formats (albums, singles, EPs, etc.) and delivery methods (physical, digital) then 2012 saw 1.65 billion units sold in the States – a 3% rise on 2011.
Exactly how much of this is all down to Psy and Adele isn’t fully clear, however the news comes as the first sign of light at the end of what has been a terribly long and dark tunnel for music industry bods worldwide since the turn of the century. However, from Lana del Ray to Donnie & Joe Emerson, it’s important not to forget how much wonderful music has gone public via the Internet and the digital underground that would otherwise have never seen the light of day. Perhaps these new figures demonstrate how the Internet-championed long tail of niche musicians at the “shallow end of the bit-stream” are finally being effectively incorporated into a traditionally super-hit driven industry, and the monetization of the post-digital music industry has finally begun to happen in a way that benefits users, musicians and corporations alike.
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