Sales of music downloads fell in the UK and US in 2014 as consumers switched from buying songs online to streaming services such as Spotify.
The US saw 9 per cent fewer digital albums and 12 per cent fewer digital songs sold over the year, according to Nielsen Music data. In contrast, US audio and video streaming increased more than 50 per cent, with 164bn songs streamed.
The shift underscores stark changes in the digital music market, where growth in the downloads that form the bedrock of Apple’s iTunes music store has stalled while subscription and advertising-supported streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer have seen rapid growth. Last year, Apple bought Beats, whose streaming music service it plans to bundle into its iOS operating system early in 2015.
2014’s biggest selling artist in the US, with 3.66m of the year’s 257m album sales, was Taylor Swift, who took a stand against Spotify by withdrawing her music in favour of download-only sales. The Frozen soundtrack was the year’s second-biggest seller, followed by British singer Sam Smith, who also broke through in the UK in 2014.
In the UK, download sales fell for the first time in 2014, ending a strong run of growth that began with the launch of iTunes just over a decade ago.
The retail value of UK recorded music sales fell almost 2 per cent to £1.03bn, according to the BPI, which represents British record labels, and the Official Charts Company. For the first time since OCC began monitoring sales, all of the top 10 albums were by British artists.
The BPI reported that 30m albums were downloaded in 2014, down from 32.6m a year ago, whereas the retail value of subscriptions to streaming services surged 65 per cent to £175m.
The US and the UK are two of the biggest music markets alongside Japan, which makes them bellwethers for global trends.
Kevin Brown, of Spotify, said 2014 was “the year in which streaming has truly become mainstream in the UK”.