Digital Music Downloads Plummet in 2014

AP Photo-Shizuo Kambayashi
AP Photo-Shizuo Kambayashi

Digital music downloads plummeted in 2014, while streaming services like Spotify continued their steady growth, reports Financial Times.

According to Nielsen Music data, digital album downloads fell 9 percent from 2013, while individual song downloads dropped 12 percent in the same time. Meanwhile, 164 billion songs were streamed using online streaming services, an increase of 50 percent over last year.

Taylor Swift was the year’s top-selling artist, ultimately selling 3.66 million copies of 1989 out of the country’s 257 million total albums sold. In November, Swift’s label pulled the singer’s entire catalog off of Spotify, a service Swift previously called a “grand experiment.”

The year’s next biggest seller was the Frozen soundtrack, followed by U.K. breakout artist Sam Smith.

The numbers do not look any better in the U.K., the world’s second-largest music market. FT reports that album sales fell from 32.6 million in 2013 to 30 million in 2014, with the total retail value of purchased music at £1.06 billion. That number is off two percent from 2013. In contrast, streaming services saw the value of their subscriptions jump 65 percent, to £175 million.

The drop in downloads in 2014 represents the first time that download sales have fallen year-over-year in the U.K. since the 2003 release of Apple’s iTunes, reports FT.

Apple, the world’s leading provider of music downloads, has already taken steps to address the surging popularity of streaming services; in May, the company announced it would acquire the Beats streaming service for $3 billion. FT reports that Apple is planning to bundle the streaming service into a new operating system in 2015.

In a lengthy blog post from November, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek sought to defend streaming services from critics in the wake of Taylor Swift’s label’s decision to pull her music.

“We’re trying to build a new music economy that works for artists in a way the music industry never has before,” Ek wrote. “And it is working – Spotify is the single biggest driver of growth in the music industry, the number one source of increasing revenue, and the first or second biggest source of overall music revenue in many places.”


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