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RIAA Mid-year Report 2022: A Snapshot of Streaming Supremacy

The 2022 RIAA Mid-year Report is here, giving us an inside look at where the music industry is heading — read Boardroom’s top takeaways.

Continuing a trend of staggering upward growth over the past six years, the music recording industry’s revenues for the first half of 2022 rose 9% to $7.7 billion at estimated retail value, per the 2022 RIAA Mid-year Report released this week with findings led by RIAA Senior VP of Research and Economics Joshua P. Friedlander and Research Manager Matthew Bass.

It’s important to note that the music industry is still vastly undervalued by most market estimations, as it continues to see an increase in numbers in streaming metrics as well as number of paid subscriptions, which grew to a record high of 90 million.

At wholesale value, total revenue grew 8% to $4.9 billion — but that’s not the only big number industry observers need to know. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most important data points and conclusions from the 2022 RIAA Mid-year Report.

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📈Streaming

Music streaming and the platforms that facilitate it continue to constitute the lion’s share of music consumption. Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube Music at the top of the food chain, though the overall streaming ecosystem also includes curated digital radio and licensing on other apps, venues, and platforms.

Notably, while subscription-specific revenue from streaming platforms grew by 9.4% in the first half of 2022, that number is actually down from 11.3% at the mid-point of 2021 and 13.7% at the midpoint of 2020.

Total music streaming revenue checks in at $4.5 billion, which equates to a $387.6 million increase compared to the same period last year. That’s much less than 2020’s $823.5 million increase, but that number ought to be noted with an asterisk given that streaming services experienced a major surge due to the realities of the early COVID-19 lockdowns.

In any event, streaming and related subscription-based services will continue to set the pace for music consumption.

📉CD Sales

Spoiler alert: CDs are sadly (for us purists) not providing any indication that they’re mounting a comeback.

After the format saw a surprising sales bump at the back end of last year to 20.9% of the market, the trendline has tumbled downward. CD sales fell 2.2% to $199.7 million, about 19% lower than pre-pandemic numbers from the first half of 2019. Even with artists returning to touring and retail stores re-opening, physical music sales haven’t seen a boost.

(We’re not saying you have to throw away your Discman, though. They will always be cool.)

📈Other Paid Subscriptions

Reasonably distinct from streaming as such, services like Amazon Prime, Pandora Plus, music licenses for digital fitness apps, and others accounted for 10% of overall subscription-based music revenues.

All told, paid subscriptions are king, as those revenue streams continue to be the single biggest driving force for labels and artists alike, growing 10% to $5 billion and accounting for 78% of all streaming revenue in the first half of 2022.

This total includes the $525 million from what the RIAA calls “Limited Tier” paid subscriptions — services mitigated by constraints like mobile network bandwidth, digital use rights, or limitations related to hardware or software.

📉Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)

Billboard recently created a metric they call “average revenue per user,” which is calculated by taking the paid subscription revenue and dividing it by the average number of subscribers. This year’s ARPU fell to $50.09 from $50.31 a year earlier, which is not much of a drop-off but still worth noting, particularly given 2022’s rate of inflation that has inevitably hastened hikes in these services’ annual subscription prices.

📈Synchronization Revenue

Perhaps my current preferred metric of comparison and one that I think will only continue to grow in popularity as we see more and more artists selling all or some of their publishing catalogs (as Future just did), licensing music for use in the television and film space, or serving as music supervisors or in related roles across other industries.

Synchronization revenue is earned when someone’s music is sync’d up within some manner of audiovisual production; For instance, any time a Mariah Carey song is used as a theme or underscore in a television show, movie, advertisement, or film trailer, she gets a royalty fee each time. (You can imagine how lucrative Christmas time is for her.)

The increasing prevalence of synch revenue is precisely why we’re now showcasing a “Synch of the Week” in our bi-weekly music column, Notables. Stay tuned.

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