Magic streaming beans? Sure, have my cow - music biz

Any day now, they'll suddenly have a Giant IPO Beanstalk

"Why do people keep buying CDs?" we asked in 2009, after a decade of declining plastic sales. And the year after. Yet no matter how many times it was pronounced dead, the CD just wouldn't die.

Figures from industry group BPI show the plastic relic remains a market favourite – and surprisingly is proving more resilient than digital download sales from online stores like iTunes and Amazon. CD sales continue to prop up recorded music revenue.

Overall, BPI reckons that the trade value of recorded music from all formats and services in the UK in 2014 was £1.03bn, down 1.3 per cent overall. Streaming listening from services such as Spotify doubled when measured in hours, but is still small beer – just £175m – yet it's cannibalising digital downloads. Digital download revenues are falling faster than CD revenues, being down nine per cent in 2014, while CD sales fell 6.9 per cent.

Vinyl sales continued to rise, helped by one of the year's best selling LPs from Pink Floyd; one US indie has just opened a vinyl pressing plant using machinery scavenged from scrapyards.

The elephant in the room is YouTube, notes the MusicAlly blog. The BPI's figures do not include the world's most popular music service, nor do they include SoundCloud, which charges the artists rather than the consumers for the privilege.

Talking Heads frontman David Byrne wrote last year that he had pulled much of his catalogue from Spotify.

"Are these services evil? Are they simply a legalised version of file-sharing sites such as Napster and Pirate Bay – with the difference being that with streaming services the big labels now get hefty advances?" Byrne asked.

The streaming services offer major record labels two advantages: the accounting is opaque (to say the least), and, as investors, they'll cash in big time when Spotify goes public. Maybe.

The BPI notes that Apple and Google are expected to enter the UK streaming market in 2015 "to boost subscription streaming even further". But at what cost? It's hard to find anyone inside the music industry prepared to dispute the idea that "streaming is the future of music". From here, that sounds like turkeys voting to reach out and settle their differences with Christmas. ®

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