Entertainment & Arts

Digital music matches physical sales for the first time

Taylor Swift
Image caption Taylor Swift was the most popular artist in the world last year, said the IFPI

Digital music revenues matched physical sales for the first time in 2014, thanks to strong growth in the streaming market.

The digital market rose 6.9% to $6.9 billion (£4.6 billion), representing 46% of all global music sales, reported the music industry body IFPI.

CDs, vinyl and other physical formats also accounted for 46% of the market, with rights for performances, films and advertisements making up the rest.

But overall revenue slipped by 0.4%.

Pharrell Williams's Happy was the most-downloaded single globally in 2014, with Taylor Swift the most popular artist, the IFPI said.

The London-based body also noted that vinyl sales had increased by 54.7%, and now account for 2% of global revenues.

UK sales drop

The global recorded music industry was worth $14.97 billion (£10.1 billion) last year, down from $15 billion (£10 billion) in 2013.

Although the rate of decline has slowed since the mid-2000s, it is the second consecutive year of falling music sales.

A brief upturn in 2012, when global revenues rose 0.3%, now appears to be an aberration.

Image caption Pharrell's hit single Happy sold 13.9 million copies in 2014

But the picture varies from country to country. The US, the world's largest music market, saw an overall increase of 2.1%.

Japan, where falling CD sales have dragged down the global industry in recent years, saw an increase in digital revenue for the first time in five years, as streaming services gained a firmer foothold.

Other large markets saw declining sales - including France (down 3.4%) and the UK (down 2.8%).

And 37 countries - including Sweden, Mexico, Spain and South Korea - saw streaming revenue overtake download income.

Top-selling albums of 2014 - IFPI
Title Artist Sales
1) Frozen soundtrack Various 10 million
2) 1989 Taylor Swift 6 million
3) x Ed Sheeran 4 million
4) Ghost Stories Coldplay 3.7 million
5) In The Lonely Hour Sam Smith 3.5 million
6) Four One Direction 3.2 million
7) Rock or Bust AC/DC 2.7 million
8) Guardians of the Galaxy OST Various 2.5 million
9) The Endless River Pink Floyd 2.5 million
10) Pure Heroine Lorde 2 million

Overall, last year saw a steep increase in subscriptions to streaming sites such as Deezer and Spotify, with revenues increasing by 39% to $1.57 billion (£1.06 billion).

That offset a decline in download sales, mostly derived from Apple's iTunes store, which fell by 8%.

Untapped potential

The IFPI estimated that, out of the 100 million people who use streaming services, just 41 million were paid-up subscribers, with the rest accessing free, ad-supported streams.

Its annual Digital Music Report said there was "substantial untapped potential for growth within the paid-for category".

The market is still expanding, with new players such as Tidal expected to be joined by an Apple-branded streaming service later this year.

Top-selling singles of 2014 - IFPI
Title Artist Sales
1) Happy Pharrell Williams 13.9 million
2) Dark Horse Katy Perry ft Juicy J 13.2 million
3) All of Me John Legend 12.3 million
4) All About That Bass Meghan Trainor 11 million
5) Let It Go Idina Menzel 10.9 million
6) Timber Pitbull ft Ke$ha 9.6 million
7) Fancy Iggy Azalea ft Charli XCX 9.1 million
8) Problem Ariana Grande ft Iggy Azalea 9 million
9) Rude Magic! 8.6 million
10) Bailando Enrique Iglesias ft Sean Paul 8 million

"I think we will be looking, in the next couple of years, at digital surpassing physical," said the IFPI chief executive, Frances Moore.

"We are seeing that streaming is really leading the digital market, and we can imagine a time when digital will be the majority of music sales."

Sony Music chief executive Edgar Berger added: "The industry has shifted from an ownership model to access. I've not met anyone who can see beyond streaming. So this looks like a final destination".

But the IFPI also called on European lawmakers to clamp down on sites like YouTube and Daily Motion, which claim exemption from liability when users upload videos containing copyrighted music.

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