According to the Recording Industry Association of America, which distributes the money it collects to record labels, recorded music revenue in the United States grew 23% to $15.0 billion in 2021. All major formats of music grew versus the prior year with the exception of digital downloads.
Paid subscriptions continued to be the biggest growth driver, resulting in the sixth consecutive year of growth for music revenues. The $15 billion in revenue surpasses the record high of $14.6 billion reported in 1999.
Streaming, which includes paid subscriptions, ad-supported music streaming services, digital and customized radio, licenses for music on Facebook, digital fitness apps and TikTok grew 24% in 2021 to total $12.4 billion, and accounted for 83% of total revenues – a similar level to 2020.
Revenues from paid subscriptions continued to account for by far the largest share of revenues, and grew 23% to $9.5 billion in 2021. They accounted for nearly two-thirds of total revenues, and 76% of streaming revenues. This total includes $907 million in limited-tier subscriptions, which is 26% higher than for 2020. Services like Amazon Prime, Pandora Plus, music licenses for digital fitness apps, and other subscriptions are included in this category.
The number of paid subscriptions to on-demand music services continued to grow at double digit rates in 2021. The average number of subscriptions for the year grew 11% to $84 million, compared with an average of 75.5 million for 2020. From 2019 to 2021, the average number of paid subscriptions grew 39%, while paid subscription revenues grew 40% over the same 2 year period. These figures exclude limited-tier services, and count multi-user plans as a single subscription.
Revenues from advertising supported on-demand streaming (through services like YouTube, the ad-supported version of Spotify, Facebook, and Tik Tok) rebounded from slower growth in 2020, when the Covid-19 outbreak significantly impacted advertising revenues across many forms of media. This category grew 47% in 2021 to $1.8 billion, compared with 18% growth and $1.2 billion in revenue in 2020. Revenues from digital and customized radio services grew 4% to $1.2 billion in 2021. The category includes SoundExchange distributions for revenues from services like SiriusXM and Internet radio stations, as well as payments directly paid by similar services, included in this report as “other ad-supported streaming”. SoundExchange distributions grew 5% to $993 million in 2021, while other ad-supported streaming revenues of $209 million were down 1%.
Digital Downloads Revenues from digitally downloaded music were the only major category that declined in 2021, down 12% to $587 million. Digital album sales were down 12% to $282 million, and individual track sales were down 16% to $256 million. Downloads accounted for just 4% of U.S. recorded music revenues in 2021, down from a peak of 43% of revenues in 2012.