For those of you who've been all doom and gloom about the music industry — claiming the Internet and mp3s and iTouches and all those gizmos have killed it — here's some news that might flip your wigs: the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry reports that the music business took in more money in 2012 than it did in 2011. As in, growth. Actual growth. Sure it was only 0.3 percent, but that's still something! Especially when you consider that it's the first time that's happened since 1999. Might we be reversing the precipitous shrinking trend?
Well, let's not go nuts. Again, it was a very small percentage of growth. But we can look for some signs of real encouragement in data points contained within the bigger number. For example: $5.6 billion of 2012's $16.5 billion in revenue came from "downloads, subscription and advertising-supported ventures." That's up 9 percent from 2011, a much bigger jump than 0.3. So digital music, once thought to be the what killed the radio star, is now pulling the industry back out of the ditch, the one it dug. Slow reaction time to the new digital business model led to this insane decline in the first place, but now maybe the market is correcting itself and headed back toward big, if a bit more modest, numbers.
Speaking of correcting, according to The Hollywood Reporter, a consumer market research company called the NPD Group has done a study of pirating and file sharing in the music industry and found that there was a 26 percent decline in illegal downloading last year, and a whopping 44 percent decrease in music being "burned and ripped from CDs owned by friends and family." This could be because no one has any new CDs to copy. In any case: things are changing! Even teenagers have stopped downloading music. NPD found that only 11 percent of Internet users who are thirteen years old or older use any sort of music file sharing services, which is significantly down from 2006's high of 20 percent. Kids aren't stealing as much music, likely because they're so accustomed to using closed systems like iTunes. (And the all-too-easy fake money feeling of clicking a button and getting a song for a buck. It feels like nothing!) And 20 million people are now using pay services like Spotify and Pandora, up 44 percent from 2011. Basically new generations are willing to use stuff that costs money, they're not caught in that strange new Internet time of wanting everything for free. So the industry's admittedly low revenues are slowly back ticking up. Last year, anyway.
Or maybe it's just that "Call Me Maybe" was such a big hit last year. (12.5 million singles sold.) Or that things have gotten so bad that the numbers could only go up. I mean, that's fairly true, but any growth is good growth so we shouldn't pooh-pooh. We probably shouldn't expect a return to the days of every dumb band getting a six-record deal and going multi-platinum, but the elevator grinding its free-fall to a halt and slowly starting its way back up the shaft again is reason to be optimistic. Music might not be dead! And all that changed is that people started paying for it again.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.