Here’s the headline, folks: America’s recorded music industry generated US$14.99 billion in 2021, its biggest annual tally in history.

This statistic, revealed today by MBW, comes from the RIAA’s year-end annual data and is up 23% (or $2.85 billion) from the equivalent 2020 figure ($12.14 billion). of dollars).

In fact, one would have to go all the way back to 1999 – more than two decades ago – to find the previous peak year for the US industry, when it generated $14.6 billion.

The 2021 figure also represented significantly larger year-over-year monetary growth for US industry (+$2.85 billion) than that seen in 2020 (+$1.02 billion).

There are, however, a few fine print to consider.

As Mitch Glazier, President and CEO of the RIAA, explains in a new MBW op-ed: “We recognize that for many the key takeaway from this report is the $15 billion revenue figure recorded music totals.

“In nominal terms (unadjusted for inflation), this is the highest annual revenue in our industry’s history, surpassing the $14.6 billion reported in 1999, just before the digital piracy erases more than half of the economic value of recorded music.

“But in inflation-adjusted dollars, last year’s figure is 37% lower than 1999. We still have plenty of room for growth – to meet and exceed historic music values.”

(Glazier did his math: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, $15.0 billion in the first quarter of 2021 was worth the equivalent of about $9.4 billion in the same period of 1999. )

On a wholesale basis — that is, the money that goes to record labels, distributors, and ultimately artists — the US recorded music industry generated $9.8 billion in 2021.

According to RIAA data, that was up $1.8 billion (+22.5%) from the equivalent 2020 figure of $8.0 billion.



There are also many other interesting statistics in the latest RIAA report.

First, streaming: total streaming revenue generated by the US recording industry in 2021 was $12.44 billion, up 24% (or $2.39 billion) d one year to the next.

This $12.44 billion represented 83% of the annual revenue of the total US market.

However, it also encompasses a wide range of streaming revenue streams, including paid subscriptions, ad-supported music streaming services, digital and personalized radio, as well as licensing for music on Facebook, apps fitness and, for the first time, TikTok.


Breaking this down further, paid subscription revenue grew only 23% (or $1.79 billion) to $9.48 billion in 2021. This paid subscription revenue accounted for nearly two-thirds of total market revenue and 76% of streaming revenue.

(This $9.48 billion paid subscription number includes what the RIAA calls “limited tier subscriptions” on services limited by factors such as mobile access, catalog availability, product features or device restrictions. Music services covered by the “limited tier” include Amazon Prime, Pandora Plus, plus music licenses for digital fitness apps.)

In terms of money premium paid-only subscription services (Spotify Premium, Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, etc.), the US recorded music industry generated $8.57 billion in 2021, up 23% (or 1. $60 billion) year over year.

And ad-supported on-demand streaming (through services like YouTube, the ad-supported version of Spotify, Facebook, and TikTok) grew 47% in 2021 to $1.76 billion.



The number of paid subscriptions in the United States to on-demand music services increased by 11% in 2021 to reach 84.0 million.

This represented an increase of 8.5 million compared to the number of paid subscriptions in 2020 (75.5 million), but represented a deceleration in the growth of this metric: in 2020, subscriptions increased by 15.1 million in year-on-year.

(These subscription count figures exclude limited tier services and count multi-user plans as one subscription.)



2021 was also a big year for physical formats: RIAA reports that, for the first time since 1996, CDs and vinyl saw revenue growth in the same year.

Vinyl revenue grew 61% to $1.04 billion in 2021, the format’s 15th consecutive year of growth.

Meanwhile, CD revenues rebounded from the Covid lockdown in 2020.

In 2021, CD revenue increased 21% to $584 million, the first year-over-year increase in CD revenue since 2004.



Summing up the numbers for the year, Mitch Glazier commented: “Transforming the deep downturn into the years of growth that led to today’s earnings report is a testament to the power of modern label-artist partnerships. To a forward-looking industry that takes nothing for granted, celebrates the unique power of music to connect and inspire, and refuses to stand still or accept the status quo.

“Transforming the deep downturn into the years of growth that led to today’s earnings report is a testament to the power of modern label-artist partnerships.”

Mitch Glazier, RIAA

“No industry in history has embraced changing technologies and innovations faster than music over the past decade – taking streaming from novelty to ubiquitous in the blink of an eye and working now to drive a new generation of social apps, immersive shared experiences, and blockchain/NFT opportunities in the future.

Take a look at a detailed set of RIAA industry figures for 2021 and 2020 below, and be sure to check out the organization’s detailed annual report here.


The music industry around the world

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