The Exponential Growth in Streaming Music’s Reach and Stature


Maintaining a digital media investment presence, New York entrepreneur Stephen Blackwell is known as founder of Death and Taxes and most recently served as chief strategy officer with the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group. Industry informed, Stephen Blackwell has witnessed the exponential growth of streaming music platforms over the past several years, as services such as Apple Music and Spotify begin to fulfill their potential.

A recent article in the Guardian portrayed an upward arc in music revenue since the “dark days” of the early 2000s, when a decline in CD sales was matched by increases in online piracy and subscription-based streaming services had yet to take off.

When the transition to revenue-generating streaming occurred, it was surprisingly rapid. As late as 2015, Universal Music Group generated only $1 billion of its total $5 billion in revenues from streaming. In 2017, streaming music revenues surpassed those of traditional formats for the first time.

In tandem with this, artists’ views on streaming platforms have changed radically. With artists such as Thom Yorke, Adele, Beyoncé, and Taylor Swift having withheld their music from Spotify in 2013 and 2014 to protest the minuscule amounts of royalties received per play, a growing awareness has emerged of the long term value of steady revenue.

Unlike with CDs, which generate one-time sales, streaming can continue to accrue revenue for much longer. An example is a song that remains on an individual listeners’ streaming playlist for decades and generates a small amount of incremental royalties each time it is played.