According to the 2021 Year-End Music Industry Revenue Report conducted by the Recording Industry Association of America, recorded music revenue reached an all-time high in 2021. In the United States alone, revenue grew 23% to $15 billion last year. At face value, this exceeds the record high of $14.6 billion reported in 1999 (though it should be noted that when adjusted for inflation, the 2021 numbers remain 37% below that value).
It’s no surprise that paid-music subscription services and streaming (which, for the first year in the RIAA’s history, includes U.S. TikTok music) still make up the vast majority of how people consume music, with 83% of music sales accounted for through streaming. However, while streaming statistics broadly stayed at a similar level relative to other years, paid subscriptions to streaming services accounted for “by far the largest share of revenues,” per the RIAA, also growing by 23% to $9.5 billion in 2021.
For the first time since 1996, both CDs and vinyl records experienced revenue growth in the same year, with the resurgence in vinyl sales continuing for its 15th year and growing by 61% to $1 billion last year. The last time sales exceeded that number, the year was 1986. Though CD sales dropped in 2020 due to the shuttering of physical music stores during the pandemic, revenues from CDs grew 21% to $584 million in 2021, marking the first year-over-year increase in CD revenues since 2004.
The only major category to decline in sales in 2021 was digitally downloaded music, down 12% to $587 million. Following the death of platforms like iTunes, this drop hardly comes as a surprise. The RIAA found that downloads accounted for only 4% of music revenue, a considerable drop from its 2012 peak of 43%.
You can read the full 2021 year-end report from the RIAA here.