Monday, October 19, 2015

Visualizing Decimated Revenue in the Record Business

Since 1999, the old "record business" (i.e., of manufacturing and distributing physical consumer products) has dropped over 70%.  See charts below based on RIAA data:

Record companies collectively lost control of music distribution, albums unbundled into tracks, and downloads have had their day (note: downloads are declining in market share at this point). 

A small number of digital music services have seized control of music distribution; YouTube, Spotify, Amazon and Pandora compete with Apple to offer consumers better, faster and/or cheaper experiences, making streaming one of few recorded music market segments with strong growth.

Losing control of distribution to digital companies has weighed heavily on music license fees, resulting in controversially low royalty rates, which are often based on subscriber or ad revenues. See Boschan Corp.’s estimates below of roughly how many digital downloads or streams are required to achieve $1 Million in US recorded music revenue on many of the popular services:

Note that actual rates do vary based on the services deals with record companies and/or SoundExchange as well as the type of exploitation (e.g., subscriptions vs. ad-supported).

Also, it is important to note that while recorded music revenues have dropped, so have costs (e.g., for physical product), and that record companies have a multitude of other income streams that they classify as "investment" or other types of income or offsets to costs.  As a result of these and other factors, the profitability picture is not quite as grim as it appears when we focus solely on revenues of the recorded music sector.