Thursday, Feb 04, 2021, 11:14 Tips & Reports

From Ascent to Descent: 8-Track, Vinyl, Cassettes, CD, Download, And Music Streaming

It's been almost 18 years now since Apple introduced the iTunes Music Store, providing a legal and comfortable alternative to music downloading sites such as Napster. The rise of digital media, caught the music industry by surprise – especially once music listeners began to exchange MP3s over online networks, rather than by purchasing CDs. Napster was launched in 1999, after a year of top sales for the music industry, and it only went downhill from there. After the iTunes Music Store launched, it was often said that Apple had "saved the music industry". When one looks at the numbers, however, it becomes apparent that they only prevented something far worse from happening.

Dramatic Declines
A very interesting diagram from Chartr shows how sales figures in the music industry changed with respect to format (8-track, vinyl, cassette, CD, download, and streaming). In 1999, the CD was king, and cassettes had seen a sharp decrease in sales. At this point in time, hardly anyone could be bothered to buy vinyl, a trend that had begun to take place starting in 1992. As can be seen from the list, music downloading portals like the iTunes Store brought the music industry back into the modern age but weren't any cash cow in terms of sales figures.



Rescue Arrives Only Through Low Prices
The short era of ringtones offered at insane prices lasted between 2005 and 2010 and revenue from ringtones was comparable to that from standard music downloads. The industry music's lowest point was reached in 2015 but since then, steady growth has been observable. Although customers no longer flock to the stores to buy CDs, and services like the iTunes Store are no longer popular, the rescue has come from a new service – music streaming. Although barely even a cent is earned per album played, so many users have flocked to streaming services, that the model still ends up earning a decent amount of money. In addition, vinyl has made no-less than a surprising comeback, and should the trend hold, vinyl sales may even surpass CD sales.

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