There are twin $10 billion milestones served up in the RIAA’s 2022 year-end report on U.S. recorded music revenues: paid subscription streaming revenue reached $10.2 billion over the course of the year; and industry revenues at wholesale reached $10.3 billion, the first time either of those markers have been crossed, the trade body reports.
Those are two headline numbers of the annual report, wherein U.S. recorded music revenues grew 6.1% at retail, from $15.0 billion in 2021 to $15.9 billion in 2022. That marks the seventh straight year of growth for the business, though the percentage of that bump is the lowest since 2015 (+0.9%), the first year that retail revenues began to rise from the industry’s 2014 nadir. (The growth that year was so small, around $65 million, that it was essentially flat for all intents and purposes.) In fact, 2022 is the only year during that time period when growth has not exceeded double digits other than 2020, when a first COVID-impacted year of uncertainty still saw a 9.2% rise in revenue.
Streaming, unsurprisingly, made up the bulk of the industry’s revenues — 84%, up a tick from 83% in 2021, adding up to $13.3 billion in 2022, up 7% from $12.4 billion the year before. Within that, the aforementioned paid streaming chunk was the largest, accounting for 77% of that total for 8% year-over-year growth, and in and of itself making up just shy of 2/3s of the industry’s overall revenues; of the overall paid streaming number, so-called “limited-tier” subscription streaming — including the likes of Amazon Prime, Pandora Plus, Peloton and other fitness or restricted streaming options — grew 18% to surpass $1 billion, coming in at $1.1 billion overall. And ad-supported streaming — like YouTube, Spotify’s free tier or revenues from TikTok — moved up 6% to $1.8 billion, making up 11% of all revenues for the year.
The average number of paid subscriptions in the U.S., meanwhile, reached 92 million, up 9.6% from the 84 million that existed in 2021. (The RIAA notes that this does not include limited-tier subscriptions, and counts “multi-user plans” as one subscription. The overall paid streaming figure of $10.2 billion includes limited-tier.) That growth, while significant given that it is higher than overall revenue growth, is down in both actual numbers and percentage growth for 2021, as was the revenue growth gleaned from paid subs, suggesting that while there’s still room to go higher and records continue to get broken, there may be a slowdown in subscriptions in the future.
Outside of those streaming figures, digital and customized radio revenue — paid out by services such as SiriusXM — inched up 2% YoY, even as SoundExchange payouts declined 3% to $959 million; those other ad-supported platforms such as SiriusXM and other internet radio services grew 28% in revenue during the year, contributing $261 million to the overall pie. That ends a few straight years of growth from SoundExchange distributions, though the overall figure of $1.2 billion from digital and customized radio in general has remained relatively flat for the past several years.
Also within the digital realm, downloads continued their stumble down the proverbial cliff, dropping 20% across the board — both for tracks and for digital albums — to total $495 million in revenue ($242 million for tracks, $214 million for albums). The RIAA notes that in 2012, digital downloads made up 43% of the overall industry’s revenue; in 2022, that number was just 3%. Factoring other formats, total digital revenue was $13.8 billion, up 6.0% from 2021, or 87% of the total business.
For the first time since 1987, vinyl LP units outsold the number of CDs, 41.3 million to 33.4 million (vinyl overtook CDs in revenue in 2020), as its year-over-year growth streak stretches to 16 years — old enough to drive. Total physical revenue was up 4% in 2022 to $1.7 billion, of which $1.2 billion came from vinyl — up 17% YoY, making up 71% of physical revenues. CD revenue, meanwhile, continued to decline despite the one-time pandemic boost of a few years ago, down 18% to $483 million in 2022. Synch revenue also grew, up 24.8% to $382.5 million.
“2022 was an impressive year of sustained ‘growth-over-growth’ more than a decade after streaming’s explosion onto the music scene,” RIAA chairman/CEO Mitch Glazier said in a statement accompanying the report. “Continuing that long run, subscription streaming revenues now make up two-thirds of the market with a robust record high $13.3 billion. This long and ongoing arc of success has only been possible thanks to the determined and creative work of record companies fighting to build a healthy streaming economy where artists and rightsholders get paid wherever and whenever their work is used.”
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