Streaming services have permanently altered the landscape of the music industry. As Rolling Stone reported, physical album sales and direct downloads continue to drop. On the other hand, streaming services continued to grow tremendously over the last year, and brought music consumption to an all-time high. In fact, while album sales dropped 18.2%, the total number of audio streams increased by 42% in 2018.
The comparison of single-song streams to full albums is a flawed metric, but these numbers definitely shed light on how completely streaming dominates the music industry. We’ve previously noted that artists (and recording companies) are gravitating towards releasing shorter EPs and singles, instead of full-length albums.
While we’ve still seen some major long-form album releases in the last year, it’s easy to see the demise of full-length albums.
This data also raises a few questions about streaming services. In 2017, Spotify lost $1.5 billion due to reckless spending. This last year, the company managed to turn a profit in the third quarter, but that was after uncovering the additional value of a Chinese partner company.
So, despite the fact that streaming was responsible for approximately 70% of music consumption in 2018, some of the prospects for streaming services still look a little shaky. There are no exact data available for Apple Music aside from the number of subscribers, but they’re probably fairing a bit better with the entire Apple brand behind them.