Just as digital downloads replaced physical copies as the most-popular way to listen to music, music streaming has now replaced digital downloads. This is according to statistics published by the RIAA, which show that steaming accounted for 34.3% of music sales in 2015, with digital downloads accounting for 34% and physical copies accounting for the rest. But while premium music streaming generated about $2 billion in revenue, ad-supported music streaming, which is what the majority of people use, generated less than vinyl records did with a measly $400 million.
America has a new favorite way to pay for music. For the first time ever, retail revenue from streaming services eclipsed revenue for digital downloads in 2015, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Music fans are opening their wallets to pay for music subscription services, or listening to songs on free ad-supported platforms. Streaming comprised 34.3 percent of industry revenue for the year, bringing in $2.4 billion. Digital album and track downloads, which have been in decline for years, came in just behind with a 34 percent share of the market, followed by physical formats. In total, revenue was up about 1 percent, to $7 billion for the year. Streaming services have been around for more than a decade. One of the first, ironically, tried to leverage the brand of Napster, the file-sharing service that introduced music piracy to the masses. But the two companies most responsible for streaming’s success are Spotify, the first subscription service to find a large audience, and YouTube, which is the most popular method for listening to music online.