Digital music streaming. Picture: SHUTTERSHOCK
Digital music streaming. Picture: SHUTTERSHOCK

London — Worldwide music sales rose nearly 10% in 2018, a fourth consecutive year of growth fuelled by online streaming, according to figures released on Tuesday by an industry body.

Revenues reached $19.1bn in 2018, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (Ifpi), which represents the recorded music industry worldwide, said in its Global Music Report 2019.

“We are now much more optimistic,” said federation CEO Frances Moore, describing the period prior to recent growth as a “mourn-fest” when “we only had bad years”.

However, the overall growth of 9.7% in sales masks a discrepancy within the industry, with streaming buoyant — accounting for almost half of revenues — while downloads and physical purchases continued to drop.

The streaming sector, which includes subscription fees and advertising income, grew  34% to reach $8.9bn in 2018.

There were 255-million users of paid streaming services at the end of the year, according to the report.

However, paid downloads fell 21.2% and physical sales of music were down 10.1%. 

Despite the growing presence of paid streaming services, piracy remains a problem with about 120-million online users illegally ripping music from streams each month, Moore said.

“They are hacking and downloading the music … at the price of the stream, and very often they are not paying at all,” he said. “And whole discographies can be downloaded with BitTorrent and other forms.”

Moore added.

Marked regional disparities exist within the positive global growth picture. For a second year running, Latin America showed the largest increase, with total sales up 16.8%. percent.

In North America, where the transition from physical to digital music formats is well advanced, sales also jumped, 14% in 2018. percent last year.

However, in Europe sales rose a miniscule 0.1%. percent.

Meanwhile, the Ifpi’s annual singles chart had rising Cuban-American star Camila Cabello, Canadian rapper Drake and Briton Ed Sheeran top of the pile.

In the album rankings, the soundtrack of smash-hit musical movie The Greatest Showman, South Korean boyband BTS and US star Lady Gaga were the biggest sellers.

Vinyl, an increasingly popular format for audiophiles and nostalgic listeners, posted  sales growth for the 13th consecutive year. It now represents 3.6% percent of the industry’s total turnover.