Digital Music: How Far We’ve Come

The last 10 years have been among the most exciting, if challenging, periods for making music.  The depth and breadth of new ways fans can access their favorite music have multiplied to levels inconceivable not that long ago.  The effect has been that music has become an integral and more and more easily accessible part of everyday life.  To put it simply: digital music is ubiquitous in culture and commerce, and we celebrate that.  One metric?  According to NPD Group research, 90% of Internet users are active music listeners.  All that is welcome, but even we would admit that so many options can also prompt so many questions.  So we wanted to create a place where everyone can get reliable information about the many services now available, and choose the ones that best fit their needs.

Perhaps nowhere is the adoption of digital music into the everyday more evident that in the growth of digital music sales.  In 2011, there were more than 2 billion digital songs purchased online.  That’s more than 6 per person for every single person in the United States!  Digital downloads alone made up 37% of the value of U.S. music shipments.  And the numbers continue to grow.  In 2011, 45 million people purchased songs through music download services, with their average spend growing to $49 per year (research here).

But music access isn’t just growing based on sales numbers.  More and more people are accessing music in ways that let them listen as much as they want without paying for songs and albums individually.  Last year, new music subscription services launched in the U.S., providing access to a library of millions of songs that can be listened to for free, or accessed anywhere/anytime for a flat monthly rate.  Today subscription services already have millions of users.  Internet radio services have also gained incredible reach, with more than 50 million active listeners in the United States.  In fact, according to NPD Group research (see here), digital radio listening is the fastest growing format, growing to 43% of Internet users in 2011.

The takeaway is that however fans want to connect with their favorite music and artists, there are more options available to them than ever.  And based on the seemingly endless flow of news and advancements in existing services, the levels of access are only getting greater.  We hope this website will be useful for everyone, from those looking to buy music online for the first time, to the most die-hard music fanatics looking for the next big thing.

For more information about the announcement of this new website, please see the news release from RIAA and NARM here.