The RIAA released a study showing that in 2014, for the first time ever, streaming services topped CD sales in gross revenue. The race was close—streaming earned $1.87 billion to $1.85 billion for CDs—but the narrow victory can be seen as the official start of a new era in music consumption. This day has probably been inevitable since streaming services began to gain popularity, and now, short of a worldwide Internet shut-down, it’s hard to imagine CDs ever rebounding to re-take the top spot.
While the music’s industry $6.97 billion overall earnings declined slightly from 2013, streaming services rose by 29 percent. Revenues from all digital formats grew to $4.51 billion last year, which was a new all-time high, despite the fact that digital downloads actually decreased—streaming rose enough to make up the gap. Which brings up another interesting battle: Streaming vs. digital downloads. Currently, digital downloads leads by about $700 million, but that gap was $1.4 billion in 2013, which means the two are on pace to become even before very long—perhaps as early as 2015. And that can’t be great news for artists, who make far less from streaming than digital downloads, which are direct purchases.
And as Vulture points out, Kendrick Lamar and Drake have already broken single-day records at Spotify in 2015, meaning the new year is off to a strong start on the streaming side of the divide. The brave new world is upon us.