Digital Music Revolution

Digital Music Revolution

Revenue from digital music downloads and subscriptions outpaced CD sales in the U.S. for the first time in 2014.

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Revenue generated by streaming music in 2014 overtook that from CDs, the format that once floated the industry's sales to its high-water mark in the late '90s.

According to data on music sales from the Recording Industry Association of America, sales in the US from streaming music were $1.87 billion in 2014, the RIAA said, while CD sales were $1.85 billion. Streaming revenue -- which includes subscription services like Spotify and Apple's Beats Music, radio like Pandora and Sirius XM, and ad-supported operations like Vevo, YouTube, and free versions of Spotify -- jumped 29 percent in 2014, while CD revenue dropped 12.7 percent.

Meanwhile, digital downloads, the music purchases that typify Apple's iTunes store, still represented the biggest slice of the recording industry's revenue. Their sales fell 8.7 percent to $2.58 billion

The data illustrates an increasing shift from purchasing music to own in the form of a downloaded track, CD, record, or cassette tape to a world in which music is increasingly paid for with subscriptions for all-you-can-eat access or with advertising. This underlying change in the music industry has led to outcries from some camps and praise from others.

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